Arsenal can get a result at Liverpool if Emery stops overthinking

Emery’s blind spot by Bryan

I was thrilled when Arsenal announced Unai Emery as the new head coach. Options were limited and we chose well. The appointment certainly averted the multiple years in football purgatory we would have endured, playing for 6th or 7th place, if Mikel Arteta had been appointed. And I don’t mean that as any disrespect to Arteta, it’s just that being a successful manager at a top football club isn’t something anyone is good at right out of the gate. I liken it to a comment I heard from a grizzled Italian-American at a smoky poker table out on Long Island one night back in the 90s . . . ‘if you want to get good enough to win money at cards, you need to be prepared to lose a Cadillac along the way.’ Arsenal didn’t need to be Arteta’s Cadillac.

However, as promising as things have been, it’s becoming clear that Emery has a blind spot, and if he fails to recognize and address it, we’re doomed to a dozen more years of underachievement.

Emery’s primary strength, for the want of a better phrase, is his “man-management’ skills. A huge percentage of his success to date is down to his ability to get a lot (I won’t say ‘the most,’ yet..) out of each individual player. He understands the importance of instilling confidence (compare that to what Aston Villa allowed to happen for the best part of two decades…. enough to ruin a European Cup winning club for an entire generation). And contrast it to what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been able to do in just one week as interim manager of Man United. Instilling confidence and helping players attain the right mindset is the hard part and it’s 80% of the battle. But it will only get you so far and for so long. These “man management” skills need some co-conspirators, the most obvious of which is the combination of team selection and match-day tactics.

It’s the ‘team selection’ one I find most baffling. How do you not play Aubameyang and Lacazette together all of the time (often they’re not starting together, and even when they do Lacazette has been taken off early)? How do you leave Aaron Ramsey on the bench even when Mkhitaryan is out injured? Why play Xhaka, Guendouzi and Torreira at the same time? And when Ozil is your only creative midfielder (in the midst of Xhaka/Guendouzi/Torreira) how do you pull him at half time and replace him with Iwobi? To me these are just glaringly obvious mistakes. All of the above meant we looked toothless against Brighton in the second half on Boxing Day . . . not even one decent chance on goal in the final 45 minutes.

I’ll concede that we are lacking quality players in certain departments right now; some due to injury, others we just don’t have. But when you’re in that situation surely you’ve got to go with the best you do have. And we’re not doing that. This is what concerns me most. Emery can get a lot out of his players, but if he alienates them with poor team selection and tactics and we continue drawing with the likes of Brighton and losing to the likes of Southampton then he runs the risk of losing the dressing room, to the point that even his man-management skills won’t be able to salvage the situation.

On Saturday we travel to Anfield to face unquestionably the best football manager on the planet right now. We really should get our arses handed to us on a plate. But if Emery stops overthinking things and just puts out his best eleven I think we can give these scousers a run for their money.



  1. Declan says:

    Of course it’s possible for us to get a result at Anfield but it’s not only down to which team and tactics that Emery chooses but also which team turns up on the day. The team that swamped spurs just a couple of weeks ago, the team that won the league at Anfield in ‘89, or the team that folded against Southampton, (even West Ham beat them yesterday) or the team that capitulated to the mighty Brighton? Everything will need to right on the day; team selection, motivation, team spirit, fight, the will to win and maybe just a little slice of luck. COYG.

  2. gotanidea says:

    According to Guardiola, it’s up to the players, not the manager:

    I agree with Guardiola. The manager can only manage his players, but eventually it’s the players that decide the game in the field. That’s why a different club’s culture and system are required to change the lazy and loser mentality of the players

    I think Emery had better use a more direct 3-4-1-2 against Liverpool, to maximize Aubameyang’s and Lacazette’s dominance in the air against Liverpool’s fullbacks:

    ……Koscielny . Sokratis . Xhaka
    Niles . Guendouzi . Torreira . Kolasinac
    …Aubameyang …………Lacazette

    1. Eddie Hoyte says:

      GotanIdea you’d still be doing the same thing we’ve all been pointing out.. Over half of your fielded players are all defensive minded apart from the front 3…… Seriously I can’t figure out how Koscienly will play that match and not suffer with his fitness and age, seeing how he’s been struggling…. Plus you still want Xhaka playing a CB? What’s wrong with playing 4 man defense?

      1. gotanidea says:

        In a tough away match, it would be better to have more defensive minded players

        Niles, Kolasinac and Guendouzi can be more attacking than being more defensive. Niles is very quick, Kolasinac has great crosses and Guendouzi had great vision in the previous matches

        With the current unstable Arsenal, it would be better to have three CBs in away, as compared to have only two CBs (when Arsenal fullbacks are going forward). Emery’s idea in using Xhaka as a left CB could work well, because Xhaka has great long pass and he has less pressure there when doing playmaking

        1. ozziegunner says:

          Sorry, Xhaka is wasted as a CB; weakens two positions!

          1. Th14 says:

            Xhaka’s distribution from CB has been top notch.. If Mustaphi can pass a late fitness test and feature instead of Koscielny then it’ll be perfect.

  3. Steven wildon says:

    I have an unnerving feeling that if our leaky defence give away a stupid early goal we could end up getting thumped, please play an attack-minded formation and don’t just sit back and hope for the best.

  4. ThirdManJW says:

    Even if we do lose, I cannot see us getting spanked or humiliated. Which was a regular occurrence under Wenger. Hasn’t happened yet under Emery. That’s a what I love about Emery! If we’re going to lose, we’ll go down with a fight. Whereas under Wenger, it was often with a whimper.

  5. Naija Gunner says:

    I think we might do well against Liverpool. Even if they beat us, it will not be the goal fest that so many people predict here. I have said it before that we seem to play better against teams that actually set up to play football against us this season. Remember Spurs, Liverpool, Fulham, we even could have won the game against Chelsea on another day. Our pressing game works better against such teams and we are usually more defensively cautious as well as conscious in those games. It is against teams who sit back to hit us on the break us that we have struggled.

  6. Goonster says:

    It’s so funny how things can change in a space of a few games. We were doing okay and winning games that we looked sh!t in. We have had a lot of luck in our 22 unbeaten run but I could see the hunger and fight in the player.
    Now all of a sudden they are back into their Wenger induced coma.
    Can’t wait for these Wenger cuties (princesses) to be gotten rid of in the coming seasons. Can’t stand their averageness and dormant mentality.

    I am just hopping that Liverpool does not humiliate us and put the last nail in our coffin. I worry for out remaining little confidence for the rest of the season.

  7. We will be annihilated tomorrow but it will be good in the longrun as the January window is almost here and management always needs a reality check to start spending. Hopefully they will be decent panic buys this time round.

  8. Sue says:

    Firstly I don’t EVER want us to lose & I’m absolutely devastated when we do… the way things are going with us (& Liverpool) I think the result will be exactly what Merson was on about in the reverse fixture… an absolute thrashing!! That breaks my heart saying that…..they haven’t lost yet & I think I heard on Sky that they’ve only conceded twice at home so far….doesn’t bode well does it??
    But I’ll be on my knees praying that we get something or even score COYG ???

    1. Mobella says:

      I don’t want to lose as well but if PEA keeps missing those chances I can’t see how we can afford that. We all know our defense has issue but failure to take our chances will lose points to the likes of Soton and Brigthen. Boxing Day’s dropped points imo is solely on PEA1000%. I didn’t watch the match live but from highlight, I saw him missing about 3 clear chances in that first half alone. If he had put at least one in the net nobody will remember much Lich mistake or blamed Ozil for what he had no part in.

    2. Th14 says:

      We have Aubameyang, the BEST striker in epl. FEAR NOT SUE!

  9. “Here comes the Pain” a bit of Bravado from Emery a few weeks ago, stating “we’re are not that far behind Liverpool”,I think will come back to haunt Arsenal, you have improved, getting shut of Wenger was so important, I personally think Arsenal’s defence will be found out, Liverpool have slowly, but steadily move up the gears offensively and look assured in defence, I do believe Arsenal will finish in the top four, however you would have bitten your right arm off at the beginning of the new campaign to achieve this, so bring it on, should be a good game YNWA!

  10. S says:

    RIP Peter Hill-Wood. Now all of us are hoping the players don’t know who he is, otherwise they won’t take the next game seriously…

  11. Eddie Hoyte says:

    I hope he doesn’t field a defensive team and hope to soak pressure because there’s no way our defense will soak all the Pressure Firmino-Mane-Salah will put at us… Best option is to field our best attacking players, so we go at each other for goals…
    Starting Aubameyang-Lacazette-Ozil-Ramsey would make so much sense and show we want to stand toe to toe in that game… Xhaka-Torreira back at the base of the midfield… Ramsey with his attacking flair will still help both of them out and we’ll trouble them when attacking.. Defense can be Niles-Sokratis-Koscienly-Kolasinac…. Would prefer Medley over Kos but it’s never happening anyways… If we play with Xhaka-Guendouzi-Torreira all at once, we’ll lose this game without troubling them, and please Iwobi should be a Sub

    1. ozziegunner says:

      I concur with your approach, Eddie. It would be great if this team had the mental toughness of George Graham’s 89 team to win at Anfield under pressure.

  12. benex says:

    Our defence worries me a lot, why not playing Elneny at the CB instead of Xhaka , Jekinson playing is prefer position at RB
    Midfield trio of Xhaka, Torreira and Ramsey.
    Auba, laca and ozil or Iwobi upfront.
    I guess a win or a draw with this line up

  13. jon fox says:

    What would paradoxically be best for our club would be to get a right embarrassing thumping at Liverpool. That would be the ONLY way to get Scrooge KROENKE to finally realise that his “prize financial investment” or what we fans call our beloved club – and note the awful difference in attitudes between us and him – is in mortal danger of imploding for want of care by the owner. He has employed a Formula One standard driver to drive a ten year old banger with four half flat types, dodgy brakes and a wobbly steering wheel and YET, he expects a LEWIS HAMILTION STANDARD DRIVER IN EMERY, TO COMPETE IN FORMULA ONE RACES WITH THAT OLD DECREPIT BANGER. An embarrassing thumping would be the BEST way to financially scare this ghastly and irresponsible owner to his core. You know the core don’t you? It is where normal decent people have a heart. He has only a SCROOGE STONE STATUE instead!

    1. ozziegunner says:

      jon, I don’t think Stan Kroenke even looks up the scores after a match.
      All he worries about is the value of his asset. The only thing he will notice is a slide down the table each year missing the chance of Champions League money and reduced attendances with associated diminishing commercial and advertizing revenue.
      It will be interesting to note how much financial assistance is given by Kroenke to Emery in the next 2 transfer windows, as major surgery is required.
      The only positives are that the Denver Nuggets is having a better season and the LA Rams appear to be improving, but I won’t hold my breath with the Arsenal under Kroenke.

  14. Aubamezzette says:


    …i dnt trust mustafi, he is too error prone especially in counterattacking situations.
    We have to press liverpool defenders so 4 attackers with two able to drop deep..

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