One thing cannot be in doubt, Arsenal are clicking into a rhythm under Emery. There’s a poor first half performance to wrestle with, some halftime tinkering before we ultimately triumph like might heroes. Five wins on the bounce reads impressive placed against the achievements of Wenger over the past two years, but I’m not sure I’m quite ready to pop the cork on the gluten-free chilled red I’ve been saving.
This week saw a different approach at the base of midfield, the manager opted for LT and Xhaka. It wasn’t quite the magical combination we’d hoped for, largely because the Swiss really isn’t cutting it. He consistently makes poor decisions that lead to heart in mouth moments. Sure, I can see that he offers a lot moving forward due to the sheer volume of passes he makes, but put in the cold light of day, his lack of pace, zero spacial awareness and his penchant for the absurd make him a walking mistake. The real concern with Xhaka outside those challenges, is against top quality competition, he’s going to get mauled. He can’t deal with pressure. He’s undoubtedly the most obvious weak spot in the Unai Emery Frankeneleven
Our back 4 continued to struggle, lucky for us, Everton barely grazed the skin with their toothless attack. They had great ease finding the gaps between our centre and fullbacks for a lot of the first half. Theo Walcott got in behind twice, Calvert-Lewin made a hash of a great chance and Richarlison caused problems. I hope that the issue is learning a new system. The hope post Wenger was that proper coaching could make more of the sum of the parts. There’s no unity quite yet. Hopefully Sokratis is only out for a week with that dead leg he picked up. Notable we didn’t play out of the back with quite the same intensity as we were a few weeks ago.
Going forward is also a bit of a mess. I’d say a lot of that can be attributed to the position mash-up that’s going on. That factored in with new ideas is offering us up a real blend meh. Mesut Ozil looks utterly miserable on the right, he looks like he’s handed in his notice. It’s clearly an ego bruising issue, because he’s not that bad for Germany. He’s our best player and he’s been relegated to a position he feels is below him. That means he doesn’t track, he drifts in and out of the game, but most importantly, he can’t affect the game in a way that makes up for his defficiencies. He just looks like bad fit.
Aaron Ramsey playing in that number 10 role is jokes o’clock, he doesn’t have the technical finesse to find the gaps like Mesut, and yes, I know he landed two assists. But be honest with yourself, his home should be at the base of midfield next to Torreira. He’s a high impact player, he makes amazing late runs, he can dribble, he can bring all sorts of value to the side. Just not as a #10. If we do need him to press from the front, then surely Mikhi would be a better option?
I’m not sure I could tell you what Emery did at halftime. Ozil moved into the middle, then he moved to the left, then Ramsey took up position on the right, then moved to the middle. It was totally baffling what was going on, but whatever the plan was, it worked and it had us playing a much more fluid brand of attacking football. Our first, of course came from Aaron Ramsey through the middle. He found Lacazette who opened up his body and curled the ball past Pickford high and right. It was a masterful goal. A real moment of quality. A top banter celebration as well.
Our second came when Ramsey mis-controlled an Ozil pass in the box, letting an offside Auba poach a simple finish to kill the game and Everton’s morale.
Three more points, so what could there possibly be to moan about?
Topline, I’m not going to bitch. Emery just racked up another win, we climbed to 6th, surged 2 points clear of United and kept our first clean sheet. He’s doing a good job delivering wins.
However, it’s telling when your player of the season is none other than Petr Cech. His shotstopping has been nothing short of excellent, he’s vocal on the pitch and his play with his feet is getting more confident (still a few ‘OH GOD’ moments, but none that have cost us).
It’s hard to describe what’s going wrong when it comes to style because it’s clear we have the talent. Emery wants the players to play to his tune. It looks like there’s a certain way he believes the ball should be moved forward and it’s a bit methodical, slow and predictable. Our transitions from midfield to attack are painful to watch at times, there’s nothing fluid about and because they’re so slow, it’s easy for the opposition to regather and snuff us out. Is that the system that’s slow, or the players are just not picking up plan quick enough?
The other glaring issue is putting square pegs in round holes. He’s playing a lot of our biggest names in positions that don’t suit them. Auba is not a winger. Ozil doesn’t want to be a right midfielder for us. Ramsey looks uncomfortable as a #10. Those are all superstar names. To make his system tick, I think he’s going to have to bench someone.
This is mostly not Emery’s fault. He inherited a Frankenstein monster of a squad. We’re getting away with it. It’ll either work until it’s massively exposed, or it’ll get better and this whole moan will look silly.
We’re in the substance phase of the project, I hope we start to see where the style part is heading soon.
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