Emery treads dangerous tightrope with key players

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Hot on the agenda today is more chat about Unai Emery. I think the Arsenal space at the moment is in a weird reorg phase. The walls of the great Wenger divide have been demolished and now people don’t know what they’re getting upset about.

My view on Emery isn’t a negative one, I’m not campaigning against him, I’m merely putting him under the same scrutiny as I would any coach.

I think the man is a better coach than Wenger, I think he’ll bring a more modern rigor to our preparation and I think he’ll instil a different type of energy into the club. My overarching worry is he looks a touch safe against the competition. I’m just not sure where the special sauce is going to come from, and in a league where we’re competing against the very best, I think that’s important.

As I wrote in the summer, this hire was so unbelievably important because of how far we’ve regressed. If we’ve got this signing wrong, Arsenal run the risk of falling into obscurity. Champions League football can become a distant memory pretty fast, which makes it harder to replenish the squad with the talent you need to take things to the next level. Stan K doesn’t have the pockets or the desire to do what the chaps at Liverpool have done. That’s why we really do have to hope Emery kicks us on this season.

I’ve gone back and forth about expectations this season. I know I’ve said in the past that you have to write this year off. Now, what I mean there, is you have to write off challenging for the league. What you can’t do is say that 5th this year is acceptable. If Emery can’t better Wenger by a chunk in his first year, that’s a problem. The goal of the Spaniard has to be hitting the top 4.

I’m not saying he won’t do that. I think we saw enough in that Chelsea game yesterday to be very excited about. But we have to be critical as Arsenal fans and we have to look for real positives, not: ‘well, Wenger didn’t do that’ hot takes.

When I say that, I’m talking about people like me celebrating good subs. Sure, that’s great, but it’s table stakes.

It’s the same with shuffling the starting 11. Ramsey being on the bench would be unthinkable under Wenger, because he always played his best 11 because he wasn’t really strategic. It’s not bold, it’s not brave, it’s just part of being a manager in 2018.

I’m more interested in the things he’s getting right and wrong on the field. So far, we should absolutely be celebrating the visionary decision to start Guendouzi. I thought he’d get games this year, but damn, it’s balls out to play him against Chelsea and City.

A negative might be some of his tactical decisions. Choosing Mesut Ozil as the player to track Jorginho for 90 minutes read like he’d never seen the German play before. The guy has no interest in that side of that game. As someone mentioned in the comments yesterday, Alex Ferguson would have Danny W take on jobs like that back in the day.

Then you have the persistence of playing Granit Xhaka for two games in a row. He yanked him on 70minutes for Torreira when we were playing for a win, which is kind of humiliating. Then he pulled him off at half time against Chelsea for the same reason. I have no emotional connection to the Swiss, but I’d say that’d be pretty embarrassing for him. Now, I’m not being a little cry baby here, I’m all for being bold in the moment… just for me, in this moment, it looks like he’s made a bad selection twice. One we could ALL see. How does that come across to the players? Ruffling the feathers of your senior players like that early doors is either inspired or not very smart.

Another area we need some sharp refocus is the defence. It’s unacceptable that we’re looking so ragged. We’re 2 games in, but we were shite at the back through the whole of preseason. The manager needs to get to grips with the basics very quickly. He made his bed when he signed a very slow centre back to be the lynchpin of his new defence, now he has to work out how to make the best of the situation. I love Lichtsteiner, but it’s starting to look like a wonky decision to hire in a right back of his age when he’s understudy to a young player who has looked disastrous in his opening two games. I know it’s not just him, Sven has had a role to play here, but even the fact that the two of them combined appear to have misunderstood the pace requirement of the league is a worry.

That should be helped by starting with the best 11. Granit Xhaka has been terrible the whole time he’s been at Arsenal. There will always be someone telling you the things you see with your eyes might not be right, but in football, if it looks like someone is consistently terrible, it’s because they are. Xhaka has been piss poor twice in a row, he needs to start on the bench and LT has to make his full debut. There are fans arguing that we struggled in the second half without the creative spark of Xhaka, but I don’t buy that. Guendouzi and LT have a good range of passing and look far better built for the rigours of the PL.

There also needs to be more cohesion on the pitch. The team two weeks in a row has seemed to give up on the game plan at halftime. Last week, Cech reverted back to hoofing, this week, the pressing discipline seemed to fade. That’s something I’d expect to eradicate over the next few weeks as the players start to understand the ideas.

Hopefully, some wins will remedy the issues. I think the thing Emery has to be careful is overkill in a panicked response. Double sessions, laborious video analysis and flip-flopping with the starting 11 isn’t going to help settle the players. The next 3 months are going to require strong leadership and a lot of faith from the players. Emery has 8 games to build belief in his players and a head of steam that’ll take us to 100% through the festive period. It’s all very exciting, but things really must improve fast if we’re to move beyond praising table stakes adjustments Sam Allardyce would have made.

Fingers crossed the manager and his team have the minerals to make this work.

393 Responses to “Emery treads dangerous tightrope with key players”

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  1. Guns of Hackney


    Not that I’m allowed to be NEGATIVE on here but…

    Remember when we actually got Ozil in that last minute deal? We didn’t even need him and he didn’t want to be here. Real Madrid had sussed his game ages ago…the guy never made a 90 mins in his career and let’s be honest, it’s piss easy to look hot shit for Madrid.

    Ozil isn’t right for any team. He’s done at the elite level. Too much is demanded of players now and more importantly his mind is gone.

    Arsenal should cut him loose ASAP.

  2. Pierre

    The way I see it is if the manager chooses to play ozil in tough away games against teams who operate a high press and he continues to struggle in those types of games then it should be the manager who is culpable when it fails .

    If Emery didn’t know this then he hasn’t done his homework as well as was purported to have done.

    Yes,play ozil for the next ten games and let him pad up his stats,who cares as long as we win matches. What’s the big deal

  3. Guns of Hackney

    Ozil should be saved for the FA Cup third round against Littlehampton FC. Likewise, Xhaka.

    Chuck these two a bone every now and again.

  4. Radio Raheem

    Off my head, Atletico and Uruguay are the only two relatively successful teams playing 4-4-2.

    Now compare the profile of our players and those of these two teams. Any parallels (apart Lucas Torreira)?

  5. Cesc Appeal

    ‘Littlehampton FC’

    What made you think of Littlehampton?

    Whereabouts are you from or currently living? I know you have Hackney in your name.

  6. Guns of Hackney


    My solution is simple.

    Stop playing him period. No first team games. No youth games. Nothing. Literally cut him off. Isolate the bastard.

    Now of course arsenal would still have to pay him but if the club made it as hard as possible for him to be there, he may have to move.

    What have arsenal got to lose? Even when he’s there, he isn’t actually there.

  7. Guns of Hackney


    I was born and lived in Hackney for 38 years but moved to the midlands 4.5 years ago. London was played out. Now I live in the countryside. Derbyshire.

    Littlehamton was the first name that popped into my head.

  8. Cesc Appeal


    It’s just I’m originally from West Sussex so when you said someone obscure like Littlehampton I thought you might be the same.

  9. Guns of Hackney

    Ha ha…sorry cesc. Crackney born and dragged up screaming.

    Hackney is achingly cool now but put it this way, 15/20 years ago, black cabs wouldn’t go there. Seriously.

    3 bed house maybe £300k. Now a million easy.

    Murder Mile is now full of coffee shops and cool bars. It used to just be those yellow signs the rozzers put up.

    Good times though.

  10. Paulinho

    “The way I see it is if the manager chooses to play ozil in tough away games against teams who operate a high press and he continues to struggle in those types of games then it should be the manager who is culpable when it fails”

    Except it’s not just a high press, it’s against any team which defends with any tenacity and organisation, whether they be pressing high or sitting deep and letting us have the ball.

    Stoke sat deep and let us have the ball when we were losing 1-0 last season, where was Ozil? Forty yards from goal passing it sideways to one of our centre backs, and not impacting the game whatsoever.

    So no, the problem is with the player, and the sympathy should be with the manager being lumbered with a myth who has hid behind goal scorers his entire career and consistently been allowed to dine off this image of a selfless assister graciously letting others have the limelight (Ronaldo being the main one that he be thanking every day).

  11. Guns of SF

    We pay Ozil. Sitting him is our prerogative. Personally I cannot see him staying another three years. We have to sell cheap, take a loss, and move on. That salary is the handcuff for years.
    Just have to bite the bullet on this one.
    Or make him a makeshift bait for a trade?!

    Ahh fuck

  12. Pierre

    “350,000 a week pathetic ”

    350,000 a week ,really…thanks for that piece of useful information

    The next time ozil messes up i can shout “350 grand a week and he can’t even control the ball,….what a fucking waste of money”

  13. Danny M.O

    Ozil looks about Mls level. if we are gonna keep him then he needs to be out of the team for 6 months working on his pace and physicality. Some say the diary of the wimpy kid is secretly ozils biography.

    We need to attack in a 4411 and defend as a 424 with torreira and goundouzi eliminating the threat in between the lines. i would rather keep a clean sheet and win 1-nil than play emery ball at this minute. I would play welbeck at rm as atleast he can defend better than mikhi.

    the only people to put a shift defensively on the wings are iwobi and welbeck. sure they are not as gifted but at this rate we need to defend and attack as a unit.

    I would also bench top knot and make him study lichsteiners positiong and decision making.

    I would go as far as sending xhaka to leicester square to be a statue since thats all he does in the big games.

  14. Pierre

    “the only people to put a shift defensively on the wings are iwobi and welbeck. sure they are not as gifted but at this rate we need to defend and attack as a unit.”

    i was laughed at for making such a suggestion after the city game…don’t seem such a stupid idea now does it.

  15. Pierre

    “Except it’s not just a high press, it’s against any team which defends with any tenacity and organisation,”

    So let me get this right…are you saying that maybe say 70% of the teams in the premiership do not defend with tenacity and organisation as obviously ozil does have a high percentage of decent games.

    What do you think these teams do all week ..do you not think they work on being organised and closing down with tenacity …your argument is a bit flawed if you ask me.

  16. Dissenter

    “If you follow the mouth of fans nothing will be right. So I believe the club is benefiting somehow from keeping Ozil and that’s why they made the decision they made”

    Think for yourself mate, you “believe somehow”
    How is the club gaining from making Ozil the second highest paid player in the league?

  17. Un na naai

    Henry bar a couple of games here and there was always overrawed by the top teams. Everybidy has their better games vs the lesser teams.


    Really? The man beat beat Real Madrid with a solo goal
    Hat trick at san siro
    Goals agaisnt juventus and Roma
    Man untied, chelsea, Leeds, Liverpool
    Not to mention the hat Rick agaisnt them to ensure our unbeaten run remained intact
    The wassssup goal against barthez

    He turned up agaisnt the best alright
    Crazy comment

  18. Paulinho

    Pierre – 70% don’t have both. You can be tenacious but disorganised, or lacking both. Only top sides, and average teams at home with their tails up(because Ozil plays like a complete fanny, embolding them further more), have both.

    Ozil has his best games against poor teams at home,and the odd good one against top sides going through spells where they are poor and adopt stupid tactics i.e Van Gaal telling Schweinsteiger to mark Cazorla).

  19. Unai


    i was laughed at for making such a suggestion after the city game…don’t seem such a stupid idea now does it.

    Honestly, the though of dropping Ozil for Welbeck is ludicrous.

    There is absolutely a case for dropping Ozil. The problem is all the potential options are even worse.

    Emery is damned at the moment.

    Poorly coached squad needing major retraining or upgrading, no money, no saleable assets, and a bunch of Wengerites expecting sucess after 8 weeks.

  20. Frost

    Might be abit speculative but I really feel Mavro will have a breakout season if Emery has the balls to drop Mustafi for him.

    Drop Bellerin for Lich as well & you have 3 experienced defenders to groom him out there on the pitch too.

  21. Danny M.O


    clearly those people have not played on a pitch with lazy gits who dont track back.

    look how effective welbs was on the left flank last season. he protected the left back time and time again aswell as providing an outlet with his running.

  22. Ishola70

    Everyone wanting Mustafi dropped.

    Yeah he’s not up to scratch.

    But people will be yelling for Big Papa to be dropped soon enough as well.

    And it goes on and on.

    Really this expectation that Emery can drop half the team within a month is not really looking at it realistically.

  23. Danny M.O

    Another crazy option could be playing gouendozi, elneny and torreira in a midfield 3 with iwobi and welbz on the flanks.

    Regardless of talent you cannot be effective in any walk of life with passengers and inept people by your side.

    those slagging of welbs sont remember his performances for us on the left hand side against ac milan or cska when he spun the dude and put us in a comfort zone.

    yes hes a donkey but he works harder than our cheetah who clearly doesnt want to run.

  24. Unai

    The more I think about it the more I’m pissed about the current situation.

    At least the clothes are off now, no hiding behind Wenger.

    Black mark on the senior management in my book, Only backing your new appointment with £70m is an insult to any manager considering the task at hand.

    Judging the already mounting pressure and shitfest we’re in I can see the Emirates being empty again come the end of the season if we aren’t looking at top 4.

  25. Pierre

    Yeah but after tax it’s only £196,126 so think of how many out work bums he is keeping in fags and booze

  26. Michael24


    So your expectations, immediately after Wenger’s departure, is a top 4 finish?

    Take it in stages.

    After ten games, our goal should be top 10.

    20 games, top 6.

    Top 4 would be a bonus and a massive achievement.

    The “mounting pressure and shitfest” you talk of is a wee bit ott.

    Emery has to be given time.

    Are you a STH?

    Just curious.

  27. champagne charlie

    Zaha is a top 6 player for me, United came too early for him and set him back BUT… I’d rank the wide men of all the sides roughly in the following way:

    Lee Trundle

    Fully expect him to have an absolute shocker now I’ve said that but alas. Still rate the lad, and wish he was causing mayhem down our flank.

  28. James.wood

    Just 18 Million a year.?
    Any Bonuses on top of that.?

    The mind boggles and the game eventually will be killed by this greed
    of player’s and agent’s.?

    A recent survey showed less and less people are watching televised
    football (Sky Bt Virgin.) and a very large portion of those abstaining
    are the young.?
    UFC – Tennis- Basket ball? Are swerving the young away from football.
    I feel the money will eventually drain from the game.

  29. Minden Raider

    I believe Dick needs a full season to sort out Wengers shitfest. I do think he should use Welbeck out wide he will track back and give some protection to full backs.

  30. Negation

    Unai has to better last season immediately??? And what’s this on, based on what Leeds are doing, right?

    Pedro, I love what you do, but you are becoming too emotional/irrational for this football writing game.

    I guess it’s probably a good thing Robbie isn’t into writing.

  31. Unai

    Michael24, not at all, I think we have a 5/6th place squad not good enough for top 4 but currently too good to drop below 6th.

    I hope (not sure I believe) that with time, quality coaching and possibly a run of wins could see us make 4th but it’s a stretch.

    Not sth, not on my salary.

  32. Michael24


    Me neither.

    Use to be Red Member but cancelled that back in 2012.

    My son holds silver membership but also hasn’t been to a game for 4 years.

    I hope the fans stick with Emery and give him a chance to sort things out.

  33. Unai

    I won’t blame the manager Michale, he’s in a tough position as the only real road available is looking a bit long term.

    What I’m struggling to understand, even considering our self sustaining modle why credit is not an option for us?

    Surely interest offered would be negligible for a club so valuable and repayments on 150m would probably be less than Ozils wage.

    Have I missed something?

  34. Countryboy

    Neville trolling Aladyce

    “I saw Sam Allardyce’s comments after the first game, Unai Emery isn’t trying to get eight points from five games to avoid relegation.

    “He is trying to build a team with a style to win the title, not lump it long.”

  35. Nelson

    Just watching Liverpool playing Gomez, Alexander and Robertson as their back three compared to Walker, Mendy and Laporte in MC, it is not a fair fight. Both Walker and Mendy can overrun the opponent. PL is a money league. Their can only be one team who can win the league.

  36. Ishola70

    “Unai has to better last season immediately??? ”

    Eh Wenger’s last season was a shitfest in EPL.

    Why shouldn’t it be expected that Emery can improve on such a season?

    That’s why Wenger got the boot.

  37. omar

    Ozil was a panic buy after Aston Villa beat us at home first game of the season. After a whole summer of refusing to spend, the crowd turned on Wenger when we lost that first game. Thats when we saw SPEND SPEND SPEND. To calm the fans, Arsenal rushed out on the last day and snapped up Ozil who was offloaded to recuperate some of the money spent on Bale.

  38. Marc


    He’d lost control of the ball – I’d love to see what the Scouse filth would do if that was given at anfield

  39. Negation


    Wenger got the sack after Ozil’s payslip fell out of his pocket and Ivan received the shock of his life after picking said payslip up. He also got the sack because it was time.

    I’m not going to lie, I’m aiming low this season. Like ridiculously low. Like, *looks around anxiously*, anything up to 17th position is fine for me……

    I’ll deregister my account if you want. But Change can be painful sometimes. I’m just trying to be prepared for whatever.

  40. KAY Boss

    Guns, with all respect due u, u said if Modric hadn’t performed in his first two years in Madrid, he will have been gone. What about Bale, Kovacic and to an extent Benzema?
    I accept criticism, but I maintain some players will lose form (and pick up later) but others may never……. well…..?
    Some players blossom late (in terms of performance) Nasri, Song, RVP and to an extent TH14.
    The team will definitely come good.

  41. Nelson

    I start to think that we should sell Ramsey this month and let Emery has some funding to get his guy. Ramsey is trying to play the same game as Ozil and Sanchez. We couldn’t let this happen again.

  42. englandsbest

    Latest from Wenger: “The existential question that we always ask ourselves is whether we are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the coaching profession”

    The old bore has finally lost his marbles.

  43. SilentReader

    I don’t like much commenting..I’d rather listen to the varied opinions on this site.

    Here’s one opinion though on dealing with “Key” players.

    If you sub/exclude them from the team straightaway they can moan a lot. They’ll moan about not given a chance. They’ll moan about ineffective tactics.Theyll moan that the coach never liked them. This can (will) create division in the team. ( Look at man Utd, mourinho and Pogba/Martial/Rashford/Shaw)

    But..if you play these “key” players, like Xhaka and Ozil, for the first 2 or 3 games of the season. When they don’t perform, taking them off. When their replacements on the pitch do a better job (Torreira as an example) they’ll earn a starting place.

    This way of managing means that players will respect the Team significantly more. They can’t bullshit teammates about that they are not being given a chance.

    A time will come when Xhaka will no longer be a starter, where Ozil will not start a huge number of games, where the fans will be clear on our first 11.

    That’s just one way of doing things.

    Either way, Emery seems to have kept his promise to the board that he’ll try and improve every player’s game.

  44. gonsterous

    reading the posts, I do agree that emery needs to better last season’s points tally and position. Which shouldn’t have to be a hard thing. Also whether Wenger would have been here this season or any other manager would have come in, there is still a massive chance we could have lost to man city and chelsea. So I don’t get the hate on emery there.
    On a side note, post 2005 Wenger still made some very good signings cause let’s face it, the man had a good eye for talent at one point. Getting Nasri, Hleb, Rosicky, Cesc. that was one hell of a midfield. Then we had sagna who I really liked. He also bought in RVP. Sanchez and Arshavin were known talents. He had some fuck ups but I did enjoy the talented ones that came to arsenal…

  45. Michael24


    Having “a good eye for talent” is one thing.

    Utilising that talent effectively, is a completely different ballgame.

  46. Pierre

    Silent reader
    The problem with your theory is that a managers perception of the player (lets say ozil) and the job he is doing for the team can be different from the supporter of the team.

    Wenger Would pick ozil 100% because he believed that he was integral to the way the team played.

    Emery made the Comment at the weekend about ozil not closing down was the reason for bringing him off… To be honest he wasn’t playing well, that is a good enough reason.

    There will come a time when Emery will have to make a decision about ozil and decide what he wants from him because I can guarantee you 2 things
    1)ozil is shit at closing down and always will be.

    , 2)ozil will create chance after chance in football matches.

    You can also put mhkitarayan in that category

    Emery therefore has to decide what is more important to the way his team plays.

    Will be interesting to find out.

    It could well be a case of welbeck and iwobi as first choice.

  47. Pierre

    Iwobi and ramsey may look like they are good at closing down with their energy but i’m not so sure.

    They are like schoolkids in the playground chasing the ball in my opinion.
    I have watched ramsey chase the ball for the last 2 games and I can’t remember him getting within 3 yards of the ball, same with ozil…
    We have rarely made the opposition look under pressure at the back but our players are using up all their energy running around in circles.

  48. Pierre

    Emery should use the europa league to refine his tactics as the pressure to win is not so great and the opposition is weaker.

    The first 5/10 games should be about results.. We could easily come unstuck against supposedly weaker teams if we are not careful….. Man utd result at the weekend should be a warning to Emery of the problems that could lie ahead.

  49. Michael24

    Mino Raiola, like the majority of Football Agents, is a leech of the nth degree.

    If you had to name five things that have killed football for the average fan, agents would be somewhere at the top of that list.

    Look at the guy. Mafia-esque in appearance and attitude and a complete and utter scumbag. A multimillionaire (kudos to him) sucking the life out of the game we all love.

    We, the fans, finance these dispicable characters. Paying extortionate amounts of money at the gate, purchasing merchandise and subscribing to global TV/Social media packages.

    Dictating ridiculous terms and conditions so satisfy their own thirst for money and power. Driving around in their supercars and living lifestyles akeen to a global superstar.

    Affecting club/team harmony by getting their clients to drop tools. All for the sake of one thing…………………Money!

    Jealous?……..Not at all.

    Pissed off?……… Too fudging right!!

  50. Joffey

    I think what Emery needs to do is to say “listen guys I have this certain formation in my head and I am going to enforce it, I know what players will be in that formation”

    Sounds easy doesn’t it? but it is not. We have players tied down to contracts that he will need to use….the curse of the Arsenal contract saga….

    We all have different opinions on how the team must be set up and what formations will suite the team best. What we really need is for Emery to stamp his authority down much like Pep and Klopp have done at City and Liverpool respectively. Bring in players that will suite his style and get rid of those who won’t. If it means losing Ozil so be it, only problem is who would want him, especially that he is now one of the top earners in the premier league.

  51. gonsterous

    should really get a jorginho signing. Xhaka was supposed to be that but he loses the ball way too often under pressure. Atm we have no one in midfield that can hold the ball for 10 secs…

  52. DivineSherlock

    At this point nobody is blaming Emery yet. What he is doing is a start of something remarkable I hope . But we can all point out where he is wrong though , criticism is ok. Emery is not doing himself any favors with his selection . Playing 3 formations in 2 matches suggest confusion in tactics. He should stick with one . How he wants to play should have been clear in preseason . I am willing to give him time next 8 fixtures are relatively easier . Klopp took 3 seasons to build this kind of squad. Lets wait and keep supporting Emery.

  53. raptora

    I have no problems with the ranking you’ve made because it is and it should be opinion based, so it is what it is. But you should be able to fit Sterling in there somewhere. Without a question ahead of Zaha because Raheem wins in every department – goals, assists, 2 years younger. Transfermarkt puts Sterling at £81m to Zaha’s £27m evaluation. Zaha could become a very good player at a top team, but as things stand he has some road to walk.

  54. Pierre


    Torriera could possibly be that player, very tidy on the ball(though not as good as jorginho).. We should have gone in for kovacic

    Problem with Arsenal at the moment is we look rushed all over the pitch with no composure on the ball its like the players heads are going to explode with all the information overload.

    Maybe a few easier games may rectify that and give the players confidence to put their foot on the ball and let the ball do the work.

  55. MGooner

    Xhaka was bought by Ivan. Wenger had threatened to bench him.

    Now Emery is doing what Wenger should have done before.

  56. SilentReader


    Agreed, it will be interesting to find out. Either way, he has a lot of work to do and serious decisions to make. This was always going to be the case if we got any manager/coach that is worth their salt!