So, here we are. Day one of the Unai Emery iteration of Arsenal. Now that all the noise around his hiring is dying down, and the novelty’s wearing off, it’s time to start wondering what he’s like as a manager, and what he’ll do at Arsenal.
I’m not a gigantic consumer of social media, and I generally dislike when someone tweets 36 things in a row and concludes the first one with THREAD: like it’s a command you must follow, but in this case I will make an exception, because this thread is pretty informative about what a Unai Emery-led Arsenal might look like:
Unai Emery: a thread of what to expect tactically and philosophically— Mark White (@markwhlte) May 21, 2018
If you’re not able to see this, or not willing to go on Twitter, here’s some highlights:
- Emery is a defensively organized coach (not defense-first, but he emphasizes defensive organization) who also likes to atttack
- He spends a lot of time preparing for specific opponents (as opposed to just running a team out there and assuming they’ll adapt)
- His teams press well
- He likes wingers who “hang in the halfspaces” - who tuck in a bit and don’t just loiter on the touchlines
- He pushes his fullbacks high as much as possible
What does this all mean for Arsenal?
Well, it would seem to mean that, for one, Arsenal will come out prepared for a specific opponent, and that the players will have a more specific idea of their roles and responsibilities during the game than they had under Wenger, who famously trusted his players to figure things out on their own. Emery also sounds like a guy that’ll have a Plan B, which Arsenal have needed for at least a decade.
It also means that, finally, some attention will be paid to how Arsenal defend, which in the past couple seasons has basically been “clownshoesishly”. That’s a word I just made up, can you tell? Anyway, any tightening up of Arsenal’s famously leaky defense can only be a good thing - they conceded 51 goals last season, by far the most in the top six (Chelsea and Liverpool both conceded 38, everyone else fewer).
Emery’s pretty famous for playing mostly in a 4-3-2-1. I’m not the best person to talk to about these things because I think formations are mostly suggestions that evolve the minute the ball is kicked off, and that people overvalue formations to an almost ridiculous degree, but I will say that if everything said about Emery is true, that formation might really unlock both Mesut Özil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It may also mean good things for several of the other players that we’ve all thought are capable of a lot more than we’ve seen from them in recent seasons as well.
In all honesty, though, it might be a rough start to the season - it’s unfortunate that this is a World Cup year, because a lot of players will be on extended rest after the tournament, and thus Emery will be operating at a bit of a disadvantage as he’s trying to implement his vision and system in time for the start of the season. There might be a few setbacks in late August and September, but overall, this is a pretty exciting moment for Arsenal - we’ve all wanted change, and this is what change looks like. And it feels like a positive change.