Has Emery finally found Arsenal’s best formation in the Man United match?

Emery Finds His Best System At Last? by Dan Smith

Throughout the season, I been critical of Unai Emery’s team selection. I been concerned we were losing our DNA in terms of being a club who play the game the right way. This isn’t just because we beat Man United, our manager finally played Ozil and Ramsey in positions they played under Mr Wenger and no surprise we produced one of our best performances of the campaign.

Maybe it was our display in France, but our coach was a lot braver in his line up then he has been, especially against a top 4 rival. I’ll never agree with switching to a back 5 to accommodate two full backs because they can’t defend. Long term, if we have to alter formations because you can’t trust a right back/left back to defend, then they shouldn’t be in that position. Yet Maitland Niles and Kolasinac were fantastic on Sunday – and on merit deserve to start next Thursday.

Where we had the balance that we don’t normally have is we didn’t have 2 DM’s in front of 5 defenders, leaving the pressure on one man to be the sole creative spark. Instead Rambo was asked to play the role he has had for the majority of his time as a Gunner. This was a gamble from Emery to go against his cautious instinct. It’s taken him nearly 7 months to trust the Welshman to play there, and hopefully this now means he has found his best 11. While long term the midfielder is going to Juventus, in the short term our midfield doesn’t need two DM, it’s not in our DNA.

Emery didn’t simply play 3 attack minded players, he trusted them to stay high up the pitch, no matter if the score was 0-0, 1-0 or 2-0. This again was a gutsier approach than normal. Emery essentially kept 3 high up, so the away side were always worried about the counter attack. It would have been easier to bring on a Guendouzi or Elneny but as the final whistle went, we had 3 attack minded talents as a threat on the break.

So, this wasn’t just the day we dragged Spurs into the race for top 4, this was the day Emery perhaps found his best system?

Dan Smith


  1. I doubt very much that Emery has found a formation that will eventually work perfectly. We play as we go at the moment. But like Graeme Souness said Emery is learning on the job. He is getting more and more familiar with premier league. And he is still Learning about the team and players which is reflected in our results in the Europa League. Am sure maybe he might have a second thought on Ramsey. He needed players that are familiar with the league and with Arsenal’s football culture. The fans have not taken to him so much, with the Man U’s result and making it through Rennes he might have a very good chance.

    1. And that’s my cry almost every day. We lack consistency in team selection and formation yet when I complain it’s a problem. A rollercoaster season and people say great job.i still think our players are better than our manager makes them look most of the time

      1. With all the competitions Arsenal was competing in earlier in the season you can’t play the same players game after game. As well Emery has had to deal with a squad greatly impacted by injuries. Mavropanos and Koscielny had long term injuries at the beginning of the season and Holding, Bellerin and Welbeck have been lost to season ending injuries. For the remainder of the squad, others have spent considerable time out injured including Ozil, Mhikataryan, Kolasinac and Monreal.
        You can only select players who are fit to play ie not injured or ill. This has greatly affected Emery’s options.

  2. This is NOT a dig at Iwobi but we look far more threatening going forward in a 3/5 with Kolasinac attacking.It was almost criminal some of his early crosses into the box were not attacked as they should have been.AMN was more controlled and he had to be with Manure being more threatening on the left through Shaw and Rashford with Martial adding more pace and threat when he came on.
    If our width comes through our wingbacks and allows us to be tight at the back then surely this is the formation we should keep at least until the end of the season

    1. I agree Phil ,I said it yesterday ,kola was a power house down that left flank ,perfect crosses that didn’t hit the 1st man and weren’t over hit ,his pace also was on on show ,easily going past their right sided players (iwobi came on and again couldn’t out sprint 65 year old Ashley young )I don’t want to keep mentioning him because the amount of abuse we seem to get if we say anything negative,but yesterday showed that we must keep the same formation and players ,if he goes back to the last couple of weeks then I’m stumped to how emery is thinking ,it was all to see yesterday and for the 1st time in a long time I was actually looking forward to watching us .
      I’m don’t want to be negative towards him it’s that I really just don’t rate him as arsenal quality (he’s not the only one though )

        1. Your constant criticisms of our clearly fine manager are way beyond mere stupidity. Are you even remotely aware how many wise and knowing fans on here regard you and all you ever write as idiotic? Why don’t you come clean with whatever personal agenda it is that you have against Emery. Your comments sound exactly like those used by mentallty sick minded trolls on our fine site. I do not enjoy insulting people and indeed I am not insulting you, because what I write is actually, in effect, a compliment to a total dullard like you.

          1. Jon, I have attempted to educate Jah son; however I may as well be talking to a brick wall.
            I have also asked him to tell us his experience in playing competetive sport or coaching in any sport let alone football, because his posts give no evidence of doing either.
            I have got to the point where I think if we ignore him he might disappear.

            1. Do you think, Ozzie, that jah son is a true Gooner at all or is he a troll making out he’s a Gooner? I am not sure, as he seems stupid beyond words and trolls are by their nature stupid and inadequate. That description fits him to a tee.

        2. Who has crowned him king of anything?YET.He has made mistakes and seems to have learned quickly.If ANYBODY seriously thought this was anything other than a transitional season then they were only kidding themselves.He is certainly earning the respect of the players that’s for sure.If one or two fans such as yourself want him out then you are seriously not a true Arsenal supporter.As if taking over a disjointed squad from a Manager of AW’s stature wasn’t bad enough.But he has had to contend with a very very limited transfer budget and the loss of the CEO and Sven all mid-season.But has he ever come out and whinned as much as you have?The answer to that is NO.

    2. Kolasinac’s decisions, timing and crossing are excellent as an LWB. Monreal could still push him one more season and Iwobi usually works well with him

      Just need a better competitor for Bellerin, unless Maitland-Niles can improve his attacking abilities

      Capello’s AS Roma, Allegri’s Juventus and Conte’s Chelsea won their leagues with excellent wingback plays, hence Arsenal should be able to use similar system, especially at away games

      1. Phil, I’m surprised that you didn’t realise that nine of the starting eleven were from, what you call, AW’s unbalanced squad.

        Add to that, if Holding was still fit, he would probably have made it ten out of eleven!!

        A manager of AW’s stature is still showing just what a squad he left for UE to work with and it’s a pity that, even with the above facts, he is still being viewed as a negative figure.
        I’m absolutely certain that Unai Emery doesn’t view him, or his players, in that light and full credit to Unai for showing more faith in those players than some of the fans on here.

        What I would give UE credit for is the way he has got more out of the players than AW did in his last year and Sunday was proof of that without a doubt.

        If one wants to be critical of UE, let’s remember that he has had the players he picked available (unless injury or sickness intervened) from the start of the season. He has also decided to play the negative football both you and I, amongst many others, were criticising just a few games ago.

        1. Ken 1845-No arguments with the team but it was the Squad I said was imbalanced.No CDM.And no natural width up front.Saying that we still produced very decent performances last season,especially at home.And Emery has done the same this year in his first season.
          I refuse to critisise AW any further as it only drags up the past and its Emery and the future we are concerned with now.If he can get us CL Football next season and we can give him £100m plus (wishful thinking I know) then a pacy winger is a must.
          I honestly can’t see too many leaving st the end of the season.Even with Reiss Nelson and ESR back into the squad we need to strengthen at the back as a priority.
          Liverpool have shown how spending on Van Dyke can solve the problems we face and Kos will only have one more season left in him at best.
          CL is the priority and we must field the type of line-up we did on Sunday in as many games as possible.
          Pleased to hear your thoughts on Dennis Suarez Ken.Even though he was only on the pitch for a few minutes at the end he looked very direct with the ball at his feet which is a good sign

          1. Just to follow up on Suarez Phil, I honestly don’t know!
            He desperately needs more playing time, but when will he get the opportunity?
            Only if we have a game well and truly in the bag, would I risk it, but UE obviously sees a player to suit his style of play.
            I was so nervous on Sunday, I hardly watched the last ten minutes, choosing to sit in my seat and wait for the crowd to inform me about the situation!!
            I couldn’t even watch the penalty I’m such a coward!!
            What I did see of him was a confidence in his own abilities and skills, but will he be prepared to stay anyway, with the lack of playing time?
            Another”wait until the end of the season” scenario I guess, but he does remind me a little of Anders Limpard.

          2. Well said, Phil.
            As I have asked previously on here, and I ask my friend ken1945 again (as jon fox is the only person to have replied):
            Can ken recall a season under Arsene Wenger where Arsenal started a season with two players of the calibre of Koscielny and Mavropanos suffering long term injuries, loosing Holding, Bellerin and Welbeck to season ending injuries and having other players of the calibre of Ozil, Mhikataryan, Kolasinac, Socrates, Lichtsteiner, Maitland-Niles and Monreal injured at various times during the season?
            Emery can only choose from those in the squad who are fit to play.

        2. Good old Arsene eh? What a tragedy this fine manager didn’t stay even longer! And so the fantasy continues! In fact the whole Wenger out campaign was a huge mistake by all us fans who know nothing about football eh? LAUGHABLE NONSENSE FROM SOMEONE WHO CONTINUES TO ADORE HIM, despite the immense damage he did to our club in his last years

          1. ozziegunner, I have actually replied to your question by saying that I don’t remember such a terrible injury list.

            What I and many others were querying was the tactics and team selections he was making, funnily enough one of those being Phil.

            We still have the three long term injuries in place, but the rest of the squad is now available and the tactics and selections he made were brilliant, including the decision to give Ozil the chance to play more than one game in the first eleven.

  3. Emery’s formations that successfully defeated the big teams so far are:

    – 4-4-2 with interchangeable positions between Lacazette, Welbeck, Iwobi and Mkhitaryan

    – 4-1-2-1-2 that beat Chelsea with Guendouzi/ Torreira as mezzalas, Ramsey as a false nine and Lacazette/ Aubameyang as wide forwards

    – And lastly 3-4-1-2 that defeated Man United, also with Lacazette/ Aubameyang playing wider upfront

    His approach reminds me of how Guardiola enforced his players to play in various formations last season. Guardiola used 3-5-2, then 4-1-3-2 and finally 4-3-3

    1. The thing is, Emery’s isn’t searching for a particular formation or team selection, he can use every game. He is going for, what he thinks will work in every particular game.

  4. Yes, Emery has found his suitable formation and tactic at last. This was what we were looking for the past games. Please, Keep it up Emery.

    1. AndersS and Tatek, I say again Emery has been limited by the players available to him for selection due to injury and illness.

      1. ozziegunner, yes of course he is limited. But the point is, I don’t think he is searching for one permanent system no matter, which players he has available. He is adapting tactics, formation and selection according to which team, we are playing.
        So the authors basic premise is wrong. He hasn’t been searching for one formation at all.

        1. I agree with your premise; it’s just that Emery’s plans to select the line up appropriate to the opposition have been disrupted by not having a full squad available.

  5. I’ve been critical of Emery at times and sometimes it’s been justified, but he’s doing what’s asked of him and that’s guiding the club back into the top 4.. of course it could still go wrong but I’m backing the manager whether it happens or not! We’re on 60 points, we finished last season with 63 so he’s improved that stat unless we lose our next 8 games lol. Considering the injuries we had and a club who’s had the same manager for 22 years he’s actually done a fantastic job, I think we’re more critical because of Wenger’s failures and we’re anxious that it’s a pattern repeating itself but whatever happens now until the end of the season I will be 200% behind the manager ?

    1. Why is it people keep comparing to last season where Sanchez sent out club in turmoil and ozil contract. Wenger was on the ropes and players looked lost. Now we’ve signed a new manager and last season cannot be used to judge the team’s performances. How about the season before when Wenger had his way.

      1. Jah son, if you go back to the season before last, as you wish, we had 54 points from 30 games, and we were in 6’th position, 7 points from top 4.
        So this season we are actually doing much better than both the last 2 seasons.

        1. jah son, look closer at the team that started Sunday, inwardly smile at the lack of memory from fans regarding who signed nine of the starting eleven…and then enjoy what UE is doing with the players he inherited.

          I’m not sure what you want from UE if he’s bringing success to the club, it was the same question I used to ask those who were bleating about AW when he was giving us top four and CL qualification on a regular basis.

          It seems the style of play under AW was a problem and that is the same thing others are identifiying with UE, plus the so called “favourite player” accusation of both managers.

          I admire you for sticking to your beliefs and not being put off by others trying to belittle your personal opinions, but Sunday saw UE do exactly what you have been criticising him for not doing: Attacking football and selecting our best players for the game…long may it continue and just enjoy the successes old friend, as we did for so long under AW!!

          1. ken1945 please explain what “beliefs” Jah son has, other than a constant obsession with undermining a manager, who has followed the great Arsene Wenger to the Emirates.

            1. ozziegunner, apart from his belief that you call”a constant obsession”, he has championed his desire for attacking football, the need to select players for their abilities rather than the reported salary that so annoys others and the balls to stand up to those who think they now everything, but actually are full of arrogance and BS.

  6. Been saying it all season, if we want a top four finish we’ve got to play our best players and stick with them. Ozil, Auba Laca and Torriera and although I’ve been one of his biggest critics, Ramsey as well. I’m willing to eat humble pie, the lad’s showing real professionalism. Another couple of points I’d like to make, after the idiot who run on to the pitch, Carragher and Neville along with Sky Sports thinks there should be action taken against our club and as I said before it’s Sky who runs the game and if they tell the FA to give Arsenal a points reduction to help their beloved United they’ll do it. Watch this space. One other thing, as anybody seen or heard of Paul Merson lately he seems to have gone missing, I’ve checked his old park bench but he’s nowhere to be seen.

    1. Beloved United haha your absolutely spot on Kenny ? haha I don’t even listen to Merson any more I just mute him ?

  7. I was at yesterday’s game and noticed three things that I’m not sure I would have picked up on TV.
    1) Monreal was awesome at closing down when players were back to goal
    2) AMN was so much better positionally and in his decision making in the second half
    3) Xhaka is key to playing out from the back, much more than I thought

    1. AM-N was much better in the second half as you correctly say. His first half was not good , but his second was a stormer. My ongoing objection to Xhaka is how slow and one paced he is. He had a lot of the ball yesterday but his use is always too slow. He needs to think and act much faster,even though he did well overall yesterday. I find him unreliable and cumbersome and have not changed my mind after a couple or so half decent perfs.

  8. We’re 12 points ahead at the same stage compared to last season so that is positive. But we’re still sensitive to defensive injuries so hopefully can hold out to the end of the season as our worst form coincided with a constantly changing back side.

  9. You still have to grasp, that Emery’s is not Wenger. He doesn’t stick to the same system and the same favourite players match after match.
    Emery uses the system and the players, he thinks can get the best result against the team, we are playing, and more often than not, he tries to surprise the opponents.

    Get used to it, it works.

  10. arsenal fans though……. “wenger uses only one pattern and doesnt study the opposition before making his selection or going into a game”
    now it is emery changes formation and tactics all the time we need to get a base formation…
    just what do you want !!!

  11. No matter how you want to skin this cat, the reality is that this what a winning attacking team looks like. It was what was in the cards for this year. With Wenger, we would have signed Ramsay by now to a lucrative multi-year deal. We would have signed a better defense. We would be complaining about the mid-field.

    Gone were the British distractions as Wenger was gradually removing them, having failed with this particular English group. I think Wenger would have signed Jack, and then sold him on. Ox for to Pool for a cool amount is genius. Theo for some more! Then it would be Jack.

    Without Theo and Ox, the mid-field would have invited Kolasanic. Elneny would have played more of a tole in being the battery ala Kante. Xhaka would have developed as he showed signs. But that great player would be still missing.

    What would have happened for certain is that Ozil would be in the middle of the attack helping Laca, Auba and others score.

    Early in the season I had team sheets for 3412 that looked very much like what Emery used. It put our best assets in place to score, forcing teams back. Not playing high, but pushing a team back is the better strategy. That is why the play from the back was possible: it was not forced and desperate. So, it was possible to see Leno being able to kick deep, Czech style. It was nice to see Leno not handle the ball as much, and concentrate on being a keeper.

    Curse Wenger as much as you want.

    The man created this team. His only mistake was to think that the previous generation of English players could play the type of football he was showing them. Only Ramsay, a Welsh player, can do that. Then the younger players are coming through, with Mailtland Niles having a good game, and Iwobi, well he is not English.

    What Wenger did really well was work with stars. What he could not do was buy the stars until late, when got Ozil, Alexis, Laca… and Auba. When spoke even that stone Kroenke managed to spill liquidity. Emery has no chance of getting money.

    The five players that Wenger would have relied on Ramsay, Ozil, Laca, Auba and Mihki would have given us top four football again.

    With proper investment in the defense, only the best, more could be imagined if the top two faltered.

    It is now Emery’s turn. He will learn to value Ozil the way Wenger did. Free Ozil from drudgery and watch him glide and sprint when needed. The others behind Ozil should defend. His movement in the first half cost Man U. There is more from him, but to unlock that again, we need to respect the guy, and play him with the best. He is a provider of the ball and idea, not a selfish player.

    Ramsay is a dynamo. He was allover: marking, running, creating… sad to see him go.

    Arsenal 3-4-1-2


    1. JJPawn, who are the defenders Arsene Wenger would have signed given the transfer funds made available to Unai Emery at the start of the season? Mustafi the last defender Wenger bought cost £35 million.

      1. JJPawn, what a realistic and factual post… I congratulate you for the thoughts regarding Ozil, Ramsey and the younger players coming through.

        ozziegunner is asking who the defenders were that UE would have signed, yet doesn’t realise that he has been lamenting the injury of two long term injuries in Bellerin and Holding, along with the injury of Kos at the start of the season.

        UE has actually answered his question by stating that he didn’t want to sign any defenders, being more than happy with those he has.

        ozziegunner, if you don’t accept UE’s valuation of his squad, I don’t know what else you can do.
        What defender do you want to sign?

  12. I wonder if some fans really listen to what the manager says,he won,t settle for just one formation or players selections,he only repeated it last week,different opponents,different tactics/players,people complained because wenger was supposedly tactically unaware,now we have a manager who is not afraid to make changes still people are moaning??

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