What Unai Emery should do to avoid being the main reason Arsenal end up losing out in both Europa and top four races by Nicholas Oyoo
Arsenal’s ping pong season continues to unravel with every single game that the team plays. In the last 8 games in all competitions, Arsenal have won four and lost four. The losses have come against West Ham United, Manchester United, Manchester City, and BATE Borisov. Notable wins have come against Chelsea and BATE Borisov. All the wins have been at home and most of the losses away.
Emery has been changing tactics so often sometimes getting it right more often than not. But what can we tell about Arsenal’s top four and Europa ambitions from the last eight matches? Is Emery getting it right in the top four dog fight against Chelsea and Manchester United? And will he lead Arsenal to success in Europe against the like of Inter Milan, Napoli, Benfica, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal and the giant killer Salzburg?
#1 Squad Planning
Unai Emery boasts a fearsome attacking potential in Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, despite not having the services of Welbeck (who is out injured) to back them up. In midfield, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi are looking like the answer to Arsenal’s long-standing central midfield problems. The recent return of Mkhitaryan and Ozil , who has finally started the last of the eight matches, and Denis Suarez, has added options in the midfield and together with Ramsey and Iwobi, there should be quality enough in the attacking third.
In defense, Emery has seen a going and coming from injuries of players, which admittedly can be destabilizing. Notable long term injuries from the defense include Bellerin and Holding, who were Key players, but he has had Koscielny, Mavropanos, and Sokratis return to full fitness. However, Koscielny, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sokratis seem just about to get injured every other game.
Over the last eight matches, three weaknesses that could do in Emery are defense, right-wing and play pattern. In defense, Emery has deployed three-man or four-man defense interchangeably. On the right, following the injury to Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Stephan Lichtsteiner, and Carl Jenkinson should have been more than enough cover. However, Ainsley Maitland-Niles seems inconsistent, Lichtsteiner is 34 and too slow and, as we saw against Manchester city, easily exposed by speedy wingers, and Carl Jenkinson still waiting to prove himself The right wing has become fearfully the weakest side. It does not help that this is Shkrodan Mustafi’s side of the center-back pairing, and he makes goal conceding blunders in an uncomfortable frequency. Clearly, Emery knows about this right weakness point and when he tried to bring on some Energy through playing Iwobi, the plan backfired against Manchester City and Iwobi had one of his worst outings.
#2 Playing Patterns
If Unai Emery is to get the best from this team for the remainder of the season, playing three defenders could help him avoid playing Mustafi at all, when he has Sokratis, Koscielny, and Monreal available. However, there is a virtue of play four defenders in some instances. Whatever he decides, it should be clear what his preferred patterns are so that players are not confused and become specialists in the areas and roles they are supposed to be playing for the team.
In the 3-man defenders pattern, he would have three options available in 3-4-1-2, 3-2-3-2, or 3-3-1-3 formations. I would personally recommend the last of the three because utilizes the wings when necessary with the wing-forwards, central midfielders and in some cases even full backs able to operate there in shared and intricate teamworking. In the 4-man defense options, I would be in the 4-3-3 pattern or 4.4.2 diamond pattern. It is in this pattern that I believe Emery would offer Mustafi the option to remake his career as a right back. it is a role he is capable of playing but has played just six times competitively but here he
might become an answer to a problem the team is faced with, a competent right back. I would recommend the 4-4-2 diamond pattern that we have used before and won against Tottenham and Chelsea.
#3 – Substitutions
This season, there is no area where we have seen Emery’s tactical nous brought through to cause interventions that rescued a game that was going to be lost, or win a game that was becoming problematic. But of late, Emery’s substitutions have just become routine and no longer game changing. In some cases, they have come in too late to effect any change. For instance, against Manchester City, the attacks were coming through the right wing and Emery did not respond early enough and by the time he did respond, the game had already been effectively lost.
#4 – Player Management
Emery player management tactics have been wanting causing some super grade players such as Ramsey and Ozil ending up not to be trusted to feature much in his First XIs. His trust issues had caused Rob Holding to stay out until an injury forced his hand and Rob Holding went on to prove himself. If there are younger players doing well in training, he should fast track these players into the first XI. The big story about Arsenal versus BATE Borisov is that Ozil started the match, played 90 minutes and was one of the better players in terms of performance on the night that Arsenal went away with a clean sheet. There is some light at the end of the tunnel since Ozil last started against Cardiff City. Let’s hope both partners in this Emery – Ozil saga
now know what they should do to keep their working relationship ticking. If this is a truce, then it comes at a good time because it can help Emery and Arsenal power themselves to top four and win the Europa trophy.
Arsenal now know that they are playing Rennes, a team they may be playing for the first time. But with Emery having been in France with PSG for three seasons, and Arsenal having played against French opposition 22 times, winning 13 times drawing 7 times and losing twice, it should be an easy passage to the quarter-final stage. However, this is Arsenal and you never know which Arsenal turns up, it might not be so easy to conclude that this draw is an easy passage to the next round.