Arsenal players are still learning Unai’s “press” – Let’s support them….

It’s now time to really see the true work of Unai and the players. By Tom

In truth the lack of confidence in the start of Arsenal’s game against City and Chelsea that has been the concern, but now we can see the real practise being given the chance to breathe.

The team did well to come back to 2-2 against Chelsea. Yes Chelsea sat back and gave us time after being 2 nil up (but teams don’t go 100% press for 90mins). Iwobi (who I tipped to play in my last article) did okay in the game, with a high 6 rating making him actually one of our top 3 best players on the day. I thought Torriera would start but some credit for Unai on picking Xkaha. In truth, that position (like Cech’s, like Bellerin, like Ozil, like Monreal, like Auba…) is his to lose (or keep). We can’t expect Torriera to just come in because he is a CDM. But now it must be said Xkaha is struggling with his game. In fact, many look to be struggling – maybe remnants of last season. Yet new roles are not offering new belief; Ozil isn’t embracing his new responsibility (which I feel should suit him), Bellerin has a long way to go still but is struggling – albeit it less struggle of his role and responsibility then last season, Mkhi’s output isn’t of the level yet of what’s expected…

Looking at the goals against.
Bellerin followed Willian all the way to the centre of the pitch (with the press in mind) but his ball to Jorginho allowed Jorginho to thread a ball out to Alonso, who won in a foot race against Mkhit. Was Bellerin at fault for trying to ‘over’ press? Personally, when you have slow wingers (Mkhit) and fast wing backs (Alonso), Bellerin should be thinking about defence (even if Willian is not involved) more so.

But beyond this I feel more insightful evaluation needs to be made. The defensive line was high – not by mistake but by orders from Unai. The reason being that we squeeze the space Chelsea play in. But that then needs to be followed by forward pressing. Bellerin would argue he was doing just that. But Ozil wasn’t. He should have been on Jorginho. Likewise, the high line for the second goal meant we played the game in Chelsea’s half (territorial battle) but again we didn’t press and Azpilicueta was allowed to play a simple ball over the top.

In the second half Unai had to deal with the lack of execution of his ideas and so Arsenal dropped off – resulting also in Chelsea controlling the game. Equally Arsenal was not able to maintain the high press and had no real outlet when they did have the ball. Ozil wanted time on the ball to look up and find killer passes and was dispossessed, Mkhit didn’t seemed available enough and faded as the game went on, Iwobi wanted to turn and move and shouldn’t be for me the one who offered hope from those 3 but did (and credit to his tenacity). Auba’s head dropped after his misses and as the game went on, he looked embarassed to be on the pitch but kept working.

I do like to look at what our opposition fans think of the game to observe 360 degrees of thought and a fair few pragmatic fans felt regardless of the domination in the first 20 mins, Arsenal should have been 2-5 up. The same concerns came out of it as what I feel we are concerned with when it comes to Arsenal. Runners were not followed; the defence was too static at times of defending (I’m telling you old John Terry wouldn’t have stood for that…’). So it’s a clear sign that time to understand the ideas is needed for both teams.

To work out truthfully how this all will unfold for Arsenal we need to understand the man in charge. Since Unai has come in, he talks about the performance when asked about targets (media hoping to see the words ‘challenge’, ‘top 4’ or even ‘cup finals’ spoken). The squad has looked in good spirit at our training ground and on tour. New signings have offered a new spark. But for Unai to be a success he needs to get the trust of the players. That’s done by allowing the players to believe their skills are a part of the new ideas. And before Unai can get them to take on new roles (forwards defending, defenders playing), he needs them to release some of the comfort of what they only want to do – again that comes down to trust that this will reward the individual in their output/development/career (Wenger did this well). In any line of management in any industry this is one of the hardest parts of a new regime change – time is your only friend…If you get given it.

I understand the idea of playing out from the back. The alternative is kick it up top and win the second ball. But that’s 50-50 and doesn’t offer enough strategic planning. Plus, players are more athletic (since the days of Wenger demanding more fitter players then their opponents) and so using that to focus the ball to pass and play makes sense. But now we have a problem with how to do this. For now, the balance still needs to be found. Defending needs to be done from the front back. If we play a high line, it’s because we need to squeeze space and time for the opponents at all passages of play.

If our attack want to attack then territorially we need to be higher up the pitch as a team unit and being higher up the pitch means our attack needs to press (otherwise our defence is just defending with no cover high up from our goal – making them look stupid).

As it stands, Unai wants to drill them defensively and with the attacking philosophy of Wenger (trade Chance for Chance) in close thoughts of the players, it’s hard for players to take on these ideas early doors. It could be that we beat West Ham (I predict 4-1) and everyone will say ‘well yes of cause, that’s expected…’ But we need to start from a place where our competition is not the City/Chelsea week in week out – if we are to see improvement to take on one day the City/Chelsea’s of the league.

Top 4 being my target, it’s still a possibility But Arsenal need to learn fast from the errors they are making. It’s hard enough that we don’t have the players for the tactics (just yet) – and it’s hard enough that some players lack conviction in their roles. But Arsenal fans need to be supporting the work, the players, the manager, the club. If Unai will want to trust his players, and receive trust back from them – why would we not want to trust change (that so many wanted may I add) with purpose of time and direction?



  1. McLovin says:

    Playing at the back is stupid against midfield of Kante and Jorginho. Why? Because they can run non stop from end to end. This allows their wingers and striker to press high. Everyone saw how it didn’t help. Our goal kicks followed this pattern because of their pressing:

    Cech to CB
    CB to fullback
    Fullback to CB
    CB to Cech
    Cech boots it to Chelsea players or out of bounds

    1. gotanidea says:

      It is fine as long as the GK and the defenders are good with the ball. The midfielders have to make themselves available as well, if the defenders are marked by the opponents

      I think any manager should not force a concept that is beyond his players’ skill level, but Emery seems to be determined to enforce the “build the attack from the back” thing

      Maybe the players would finally get used to it. Because they played awkwardly when Wenger used 3-4-2-1, but then they managed to surprise many opponents with the new tactic

    2. Go ask Alice... says:

      Its amazing seeing Chambers getting loaned out, he’s good with the ball at his feet its one of the reasons he played in other positions. Mert was the only other one who was good at that stuff. Koscielny is overrated with the ball, sometimes he can pull off nice passes but overall Id say he’s iffy. Bielik would be used to it with him playing CDM. Emery needs to decide which is more important – a CB pair who can use their feet or an experienced two who’s ball control has allot to be desired. He went with Cech and loaned the younger ones out, so it must not be the top of his priorities.

  2. gotanidea says:

    Still waiting for those perfect through balls from Ozil in a tough away match

    Instead of getting those from him, the attackers got perfect crosses from Iwobi, Mkhitaryan and Bellerin, but they could not convert the easy chances into goals. Even Guendouzi showed his good vision by creating sharp through balls

    The next EPL games would be good opportunities for Arsenal to rebuild their confidence and to get used to Emery’s strategy, before meeting Liverpool

  3. Henrykamp says:

    That was the major problem: Jorginho was giving so much time and space on the ball… And he’s the centerpiece of Chelsea’s new playing style. You don’t allow that.

    Liverpool beat City 3 times last year by dealing ruthlessly with Fernandinho. Firmino (very much underrated, by the way) used to press him really tight and hard. And because of that City couldn’t really play out of the back.

    Ramsey should have been allowed to start and giving that task of pressing Jorginho. I have supported Ozil so much, but it’s time to admit that he’s become absolutely shocking.

    Why we didn’t push for a deal for Soyuncu during the summers is baffling. He has pace, super comfy with the ball at his feet and intercepts well. Key traits in this kind of Emery’s system. In my opinion, he’d have done a better job than Mustafi or even Sokratis who looks lost in this new system with his terrible lack of pace.

    We also let Martins go to Athletico free. We should have giving that a shot.

    We badly need a top center half and at least one pact, skilful winger in January. Whether the board will release funds for those additions remains to be seen.

    Last year, at a point, I asserted that THREE players in our current squad could become beasts under a new manager: Xhaka, Bellerin and Iwobi.

    Iwobi has looked decent from preseason. He’s more direct these days and presses well. He’s obviously been coached. I hope he pulls a ‘Sterling’.

    Why Bellerin and Xhaka have not picked up is baffling. Are they really not Arsenal quality?

    All in all, it’s early days yet. Hoping Emery and his squad finally see a reason to smile come Saturday evening… And that we can kick on from there.

    1. McLovin says:

      I can’t help but to think out of those 3 players mentioned, Iwobi is the only one who got dropped and also the only one who has improved.

      Xhaka and Bellerin for some reason gets to start every single match even though we got perfect back ups in Lichsteiner and Torreira.

      Iwobi should start next match as CAM. Özil has under-performed and should be benched.

      ———- Cech
      Lichs – Sokratis – Mustafi – Monreal
      ——- Torreira – Guendouzi
      ————- Iwobi
      Mkhitaryan – Lacazette – Aubameyang

    2. gotanidea says:

      Great observations on Firmino’s job on Fernandinho and Jorginho

      I’m not sure about Soyuncu, but Arsenal could have bought Koulibaly (if he doesn’t cost 60M+) or Yerry Mina, because they are more accustomed to attacking from the back

      I didn’t see consistency from Martins in World Cup, but Arsenal could have gotten Malcom (before Barcelona got him), Bailey or Adama Traore

      1. McLovin says:

        Napoli president confirmed they rejected a bid of 90 million pounds from an English team…

  4. Nayr says:

    That is not an excuse.

    i saw even chelsea pressing us better than we were pressing them and sarri has only been their coach for only threee weeks.

    the problem with arsenal is a few so called “big” players who underperform and yet play every game.

    Ozil especially did nothing against chelsea.
    awful against mancity.
    at 350,000 a week.a joke of a player.

    it’s time to call a spade a spade.
    ozil is useless and trying to fit him into the wing position is what is affecting our defensive balance.

    .bench all of them and play players who can play out from the back and press.
    you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.

    1. Highbuy44 says:

      Well said

    2. I agree With Nayr. That is not an excuse but it is a reason. Time is ripe to drop those non-performers. However. A choice needs to be made to play either Ramsey or Ozil in a free ranging role to either back-up or spearhead Our attacking force. Can’t let it go Cech has to be benched because he just can’t kick the ball at least not accuratly. Bring on Leno.
      Letting Calum Chambers go on loan was insane. This will bite us in the arse!

  5. Dud says:

    8 out of 11 players are not fit to play ninety minutes and 7 out of 11 are not good on the …. Emery use this season to search for players who can ply his style of football like (jürgen klop and pep ) did in their first season so support our Arsenal.

  6. JustJoy says:

    the problem with most clubs today is simply that most fans are now coaches and managers… so true supporting is now mount Everest and, Arsenal is not exceptional.

    any formation must be followed by complains/slating and criticism.

    we need to get behind the team…

    ooooh! ooooh!! we are the Gunners.

  7. AndersS says:

    Great article – it pinpoints the status 100%.

    Our players have never learned how to press, and it will take time to make them do it. Maybe the likes of Ozil, Ramsey and Mkhi can’t really learn it, and then they need to be exchanged for other players. Problem is, our youngsters haven’t learned to press either, so we are caught in a tricky situation, which will take time to get out of.

    1. OKIROR says:


  8. John0711 says:

    Fed up of hearing this lets get behind them BS I will give Emery time but currently he’s making poor tactical decisions and poor team selection

    Czech should not play in the next game

    1. OKIROR says:

      people like you should stop reasoning out of emotions or dislike for some players, until these players leave lets get behind the team and support them

      1. Phil says:

        Listen Pal-these comments are from fans who are justified in their opinions and it is impossible to disagree with what is being said.Yes-we are in a transitional period and we are introducing new tactics but nobody should doubt that we have now played two games against top sides that shows we are at present a million miles away from being able to compete with them.
        I believe most fans respect the fact that Emery has had to come in and change things and that takes time.I also believe the fanbase will give him time to get a settled team and a more level consistency in our performances.But make no mistake-the run of games we have coming up should be easier but not one of these teams will be rolling over for us and will be sitting back to let us play the game Emery wants.I can imagine Neil Warnock is rubbing his hands together at the moment waiting for us to go to Cardiff in a couple of weeks time.He would have seen how we have struggled with Citeh and Chelski pressing us high up the pitch and will be on us right from the kick off.
        Emery needs to realise this is the Premiership and no team just sits back.While we all recognised change was needed he needs to start winning games.

        1. AndersS says:

          Everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
          But if our selection was based on which players at least half the fan base on this site can approve, we would be struggling to get 11 players on the pitch 🙂

        2. John0711 says:

          Thanks Phil
          It’s idiotic when fans say u should support the team it’s an entertaining business and we are not entertained

  9. Sue says:

    I will ALWAYS support the team! I have to say I’m still disappointed after Saturday. We could have/should have won it…. but we didn’t. All those chances we had (plus we had some against City)
    I was amazed at his team selection on Saturday… poor players still being selected… but give them the benefit of the doubt, it’s a new manager, new way of playing so it’ll take time! I just hate losing…. especially to teams I deteste!
    I’m hoping we win on Saturday otherwise I’ll be distraught ? one plus though is Guendouzi…. what an attitude this young man has, hopefully it’ll rub off on the others! Glad we got him COYG

  10. Billy says:

    Just a thought how about playing Bellerin as a winger….listening to reports aftet the match, he was good going forward but poor in defence. Bale started as a left back.

    1. antbadapple says:

      Well he will certainly have to improve his shooting confidence to get anywhere near Bale mate.

  11. Sean William says:

    Playing from the back with players who cannot do it is STUPID. Peter Cech was rolling the ball to Bellrin, Mustafi and Sokratis, even when they were being pressed and marked. It was not us playing the pressing game, it was Chelsea. The so called pressing game was in fact a sit back for half an hour game. We could hardly get to the half-way line never mind press. Emery does not understand yet that Premier League football is like boxing if you stick out your chin you will be hit. Had we have started the game by Cech throwing or kicking more upfield for about 20 minutes we could have got into the game because both City and Chelsea would have to have sat deeper. Suicide tactics by Emery.

  12. jon fox says:

    Tom, a well constructed and thought through article. My take is that we have a fundamental problem with virtually all the clubs defenders who were here, pre-Emery, as none bar Monreal are good enough and he is not top level either. No amount of coaching or encouragement can change the FACT that they are sows ears and Emery is expected to make silk purses from them, which is impossible. Until we can get rid of Bellerin, all the CBs,( bar Mavrapanos), Xhaka, Elneny and others too, we cannot hope to make top four. I have GREAT FAITH in Emery but he is not a miracle worker. Nor is Guardiola. Nor is Klopp. No one is. The TRUTH is that we NEED A NEW OWNER AND THAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM WE FACE , BEFORE WE CAN HOPE TO EVER AGAIN WIN THE TITLE.

  13. antbadapple says:

    So you definately believe the self-sustaining model that we employ will never have a chance of any form of success? We have to have an owner who will throw endless money into the mix?
    I aint rich enough to own the club and it is the privalege of the few maybe..
    So i won’t be devisive toward the owners but expect them to do what is right to achieve greater success.

  14. David Rusa says:

    There can only be one head coach at a time and now it is Unai Emery. He has so far played two games against two of the best and lost. I don’t think there is too much to read there. Besides we lost at Stamford Bridge which is Chelsea’s fortress. There will be a return match at some point in time; who knows what might happen? It is more consoling to lose to big teams than lose the Man U style yesterday. I am very happy because Gary Neville was made to keep quiet! He was becoming too noisy against Arsenal. I am very confident that soon Arsenal will reverse their fortunes and start winning games. It is even possible that Arsenal can win 10 games in a row. Nothing is impossible given the fact that the team is still trying to come to terms with Unai Emery’s style of play. Once the team grasps its new style of play there will be a lot of positives on the pitch. All new managers to EPL start with a baptism of fire and then pick up. Emery is in the habit of winning trophies and will do so at Arsenal. When people were fighting Wenger they always expressed sentiments like “We are willing to sacrifice top four and accept low positions so long as Wenger leaves the Club.” So where have those vows gone now? I was one of those who called for caution, arguing that getting rid of Wenger was as easy as pie but the difficult part was his replacement. However I was very satisfied when Emery was chosen as our new coach and I will give him my unqualified support. I believe many genuine fans feel the same. Emery will soon shake the EPL.

  15. Grandad says:

    Spot on John Fox.First we were saddled with Wenger and now Kronke.The trouble is we could become relegation candidates before he invests in new top quality players.

    1. jon fox says:

      I did not say we are “saddled with Emery.” THOSE ARE YOUR WORDS, NOT MINE. I said I have great faith in Emery (my actual words) which is very different from being “saddled with him”. My beef was with Wenger and esp KROENKE, NEVER EMERY. By all means feel free to endorse what I say whenever you wish. But please, endorse what I ACTUALLY said (or argue against it, as the case may be)!

  16. JJPawn says:

    One glaring problem with a strategy of press is that it leaves players exposed when the ball is passed by passing it ahead to the attack quickly. It then leaves players running BEHIND the attack! How often did we see Emery’s men chasing the counter attack!

    If Emery then wants a high line, it gets worse, as faster players from the other side will pounce and dribble past to score.

    So far, it is Unai Emery 0 – 2 Other Coaches.

    Emery did better with Czech in the second game. Czech was able to feed the ball to the mid-field at times, to nullify Chelsea’s press of sorts.

    What we need to do is get more feeds to the attack. Ozil is useless without a ball. (“Fans” might attack the German (is done with that?) for contributing, but Cezech’s method allow Ozil to get the ball suddenly, leaving the ace time to look for potential targets. So Unai need to re-think making Ozil press too, and leave it up to the player, as with Czech.

    Pressmen. Use Welbeck too with orders to press and then sprint back as defensive cover to harry the man with the ball. Bellerin too can be used this way. While waiting for them to return the defender as the top of the box should force a slow down of the game.

    I would rather not do the press. It is dumb. What is needed to get done is actually is give the back line some time to and cover by covering up the lanes. That way the slower defenders can play with their back to Czech and looking at the ball.

    Mixing press with defense as the back is sort of contradictory. Unless everyone is world class.

  17. Tommogun58 says:

    I agree that they are and will be for some time yet learning Unai’s way but that there are some in that team that still have the feeling that they only need to turn up then walk around with their chins in their chests, those players need to start putting in a shift on the pitch and do what emery is asking, it smacks of them trying to make Eemery look like the problem here, Ozil, Xhaka, Ramsey, Cech, Bellerin all been at the club for a fair while now and all seasoned pro’s, they all need to take a leaf out of Guendouzi’s and Terierras book and look like you want the shirt and be at the club these two players put in more effort in two games than that lot have in alot of the time they have been there , the system he wants to play should have no bearing on the amount of effort you have to put in, I would rather have squad od of those two youngsters and lose every week than to see these so called pro’s walking around in a sulk .

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