Instead of focusing on all the negatives from today’s loss to Chelsea, here’s a look at one of the positives. It appears that Unai Emery is not afraid to pull players putting in a subpar performance.
Granit Xhaka was lousy throughout the first half, and was replaced at half time by new signing Lucas Torreira. Judging by my Twitter feed, this change was celebrated almost as much as any goal. Here’s an example of the sentiment from Arsenal supporters.
It’s such a blessing seeing Granit Xhaka getting subbed off— Higuain (@jibs__a) August 18, 2018
Also getting the early hook was Mesut Ozil. The £300,000 a week midfielder was replaced in the 67th minute by Aaron Ramsey. Interestingly this occurred days after it was reported that Emery had spoken to the German about his defensive duties.
When speaking of Ozil leading up to the Chelsea match, Emery said, “There are defensive moments and attacking moments. Every player each needs this commitment.”
When asked about the substitutions after the match, Emery was coy. He played the politician and explained away the changes as tactical.
On Ozil Emery said:
Today I was happy with him. I changed because I felt we needed a bit more in the middle, not let Chelsea process more in the middle because were defending very deep. I am happy with Mesut. We will help him.
Maybe I am reading too much in to this, but that last line, “we will help him” is pretty telling. Emery told Ozil he needs to work harder off the ball. In replacing him mid match, the new manager backed up his words.
As for Xhaka, the Spaniard said, “It was a tactical decision because he has the yellow card also. I think we don’t take risks with this yellow card and also to give the chance to another player in the match.”
Emery has had just two matches at the helm of Arsenal. Change takes time. However, by showing that he is not afraid to pull underperforming players, he is asserting his authority over his team. Hopefully that will inspire players to put in better shifts or risk losing their place.