In a world where nerds rule and dreamers pay their respects, an unlikely hero has emerged.
His name is Unai Emery.
A man who defied the xG gods.
A man who outscored expectations.
A man who racked up points against all odds.
But could it last?
That’s the damn question.
This is the biggest divide in football society since the age debate of 28 or 29. This is bigger than Denilson. This is bigger than ‘what if Eduardo hadn’t.’
This confusing opener to a blog is driven by the reality that Arsenal are playing above their expected points total at the moment, and it’s leading the worlds premier stats nerds to question the viability of our standing right now.
All of that brings up a number of questions that need to be answered. One of them, and the one I am going to give a bit more information on today, is: does Unai Emery have a track record of his teams beating xG?
This is the operating narrative of managers like Sean Dyche or Lucien Favre – that they have special tactical things that they do that are not captured in the model. I have been asked if Emery also has this profile.
This is raw passion versus data. But, as I’ve lightly been saying since the start of the season, if you’re honest with yourself, we’ve been a touch pony for most of our games, and it’ll bite us in the backside at some point.
Alternatively, you could be of the school of thought where you think that beating out xG early on the season is obviously lucky, but as the matches get eaten up, Emery’s ideas will settle and we’ll start defending better and create far more chances.
For now, that’s how I’m dealing with a porous defence and an attack that’s been incredibly clinical this season.
It’s all part of the master plan!
Realistically, we’ll know by the time the Liverpool game comes around. I’d love the think Pep G showed us the way there, but I’m not sure he did. Wenger always struggled with heavy metal football, so it’ll be interesting to see how Emery is strategising that game. Slowing the game down, forcing Liverpool to play at a slower pace sounds like a good way in. Obviously easier said than done, but for once, we have a coach more than capable of dropping a semi-decent plan.
There were some positive quotes from Reiss Nelson in the press. He scored for England vs Andorra and has his sights set on a possible early return to Arsenal this January. I still think that’s an aggressive timeline. He should take the Sancho route and do a couple of seasons away from Arsenal, build up his fitness, his sharpness and confidence so when he’s thrown in the deep end at Arsenal, he has the tools to deal with the challenge.
It’s actually a pretty fruitful time for Arsenal youth. There are some genuinely exciting talents breaking into consideration at the club, now there’s a manager that can train the intellectual side of their brains. To make it under Arsene, you had to be exceptionally gifted because you weren’t getting a tactical education. I can’t wait to see where Willock, Smith Row, AMN and Neslon take their game. Hopefully, Project British Youth wasn’t a failure, it just took a bit of a delay!
Right, that’s me done for today. My US VISA was renewed in Paris today, so I’m off to scout Berlin. I’ll report back with my findings tomorrow.
BIG LOVE x
P.S. I haven’t spend a huge amount of time in Paris, but damn, what a fucking dreamy place.