Arsenal: Style or Results… by Goonerboy
Good day gooners far and wide, I don’t know how you guys are coping without The Arsenal but for me it has been super boring and dull and I can’t wait to see the lads in action again!
Right now, there is certainly a feel good factor around the club, as we have been on a fairly good run with victories over United and Rennes ensuring we have our destiny firmly in our hands as far as the race for the top 4 is concerned and also making it to the Europa league quarter finals, now is indeed a good time to be a gunner!
But how were we able to arrive here? I would say we have been lucky and we also worked really hard for it and much has been made of how we did it, rather than the fact that we actually did it. Only a few weeks ago, I have seen Emery criticised a lot, with many saying they don’t really understand how exactly he wants us to play, his philosophy is not clear and all that. For me though, his philosophy is clear enough as he stated upon his appointment as head coach. He wants his team to be the protagonist, pressing aggressively and play beautifully from behind.
If you want to be honest, you would admit that we have shown glimpses of that on numerous occasions this season, especially at the Emirates, and at times we have lacked that creative spark and offense flow that we just grind out the win. While I want to enjoy good and entertaining football, I do not want that at the expense of the much needed results, I say ‘much needed’ because we know the goal for this season is to get back in the Champions League and we need to do everything we can to achieve that, and I believe that is exactly what Emery is trying to do.
Firstly, following a coach like Arsene Wenger, it was always going to be difficult for Emery to install his own identity. Wenger, more so than any other coach, had one way of playing and managing, and very rarely deviated from this in over 20 years.
Emery, by contrast, has looked to adapt the team in each game in order to get the most out of the squad he has available. This is a squad that he has had little influence over in terms of composition and one that has been affected by injury throughout the season. He, however, puts out the team he feels can do the job against a particular opponent which is something we have all been crying out to.
For long periods under Wenger, fans bemoaned his lack of pragmatism and obsession with aesthetics. Last season this came to its crescendo, when Arsenal picked up just three total points away from home in the new year. With the shoe on the other foot, however, fans seem to be forgetting how infuriating and damaging Wenger’s intransigence was.
Emery instead is looking at each game in isolation and changing his approach accordingly. It is perhaps true that he doesn’t know his best team or even his best system, but this is most probably caused by the fact that one doesn’t exist.
When Arsenal have been at their best this season, we have seen what Emery wants to do. High pressing, fast counter attacks, tenacity in midfield and passing from the back. This style though, is dependent on players with a certain skill set and it is clear this is not a skill set that Emery sees in many players in his squad.
With Hector Bellerin injured it would be irresponsible to ask Stephan Lichtsteiner to emulate his role. The same applies to Shkodran Mustafi replicating the work of Koscielny.
Emery has a clear understanding of what he wants to do, but because of the circumstances he faces, has been willing to find new solutions that fit the players he has available to him. To a large extent this has worked as are just one point behind Spurs and we could even be third after the next match day. It is not always pretty, but it remains the best way to extract what he can from the squad.
Klopp altered his gung-ho approach a little this season to make sure Liverpool clinch the title (am tempted to go further on this but I resist it) Pep went to Anfield and parked the bus, saying Liverpool is world class in the pressing game hence the need to adapt their game. All this has been done to get a result and even though Emery does it so much more, I still support him regardless as this approach makes us highly unpredictable and it gives me confidence against ANY opposition.
Finally, whether we make the top 4 or not, or win the Europa league or not, we have made progress and I strongly believe in Emery. Coming to a new league, with new backroom staff, 5 new players and having to replace a long serving manager is a great deal and I give him credit for what he has done so far and I hope all gooners continue to show him support.