The days of ‘Wenger-ball’ is gradually coming to an end and Emery’s high pressing and playing-out-from-the- back looks set to be taking over. The team at the moment looked to be in a difficult but soon-to-blossom transition. This is because about 65-70% of the squad have been trained to master the ‘Wenger-ball’ for a couple of years and are (at the moment) alien to the high pressing style just introduced to the team by Unai Emery. To get the best out of this team, finding the right pairing, getting the right balance and playing to the strength of the current set of players are things to seriously consider.
Some weeks back, Gary Neville while speaking with Jamie Carragher on Skysport’s Monday Night Football was insistent on Emery imposing his tactics on the players. Neville said, “He has had six weeks to work, Unai Emery has been a coach for ten years and he has been successful. He has his idea and the players have to adapt to him. He has to find out over the first season which players can adapt to him and which players can’t, of course he will lose games. In this first season there will be pain for Arsenal in this transition they are going through. I think it’s dangerous to adapt”.
Neville’s words are facts I agree with, but then, fans would want an instant return to the rank of the elites and getting back into the Champions League is one way to do that. However, I am afraid too many losses in the middle of a holistic transition might hurt that quest which is why gradually introducing the new style of play and tactics of the coach is the best way to go. Setting up the team to play to the players’ strength will then mean getting the right pairings and finding the right balance in order to make a compact team.
During the transfer window, Unai Emery made five signings in Lichtsteiner, Leno, Guendouzi, Sokratis and Torreira. Of these players, only Guendouzi and Sokratis have started league games while Torreira and Lichtsteiner have made substitute appearances. The pairing of Mustafi and Sokratis is somewhat debatable as I feel that combo hasn’t really gelled. Both players are similar in their style of play – play a highline, aggressive, quick to slide rather than stay on their feet among others. Unfortunately those are the most senior center halves we have fully fit as Laurent Koscielny is still out injured. They need a more composed center half partner (Koscielny might be just that) and the earlier Emery sort that out, the better for the team.
The midfield is another part of the team that needs to be sorted immediately. Xhaka and Guendouzi have looked the first choice pairing as they have started in all of the games, but just like Mustafi and Sokratis, both players are similar with Xhaka having to shoulder the defensive responsibilities. Xhaka, famed for his huge contributions to the teams forward play has been guilty of sloppiness at times. Guendouzi on the other hand has a huge engine in him. He can move the ball, close down oppositions and never afraid to get in the mix and thick of things. For a player of his age, that’s some huge characteristics and attributes! His level of confidence is another quality that can endear him to many managers and there’s no doubt he’s settling in well in the squad. Also worthy of note is the fact that his burst and movements can also spring problems at times because dispossessing him always tends to expose the backline.
Torreira brings the much needed balance to the team. He has come in as a sub in every game this season and his entry always breathe fresh air into the team. Asides complementing Xhaka and Guendouzi, Torreira is also good with interceptions, getting into tackles and can also hit a pass. His work rate is enormous and can as well provide adequate cover for the defence. In the games against Cardiff and West Ham, he came on and afforded Xhaka the much needed freedom to play further forward without the burden of defensive responsibilities.
In my opinion, I will love to see more of the Xhaka – Torreira pairing in central midfiled for our subsequent games. This is not because Guendouzi isn’t good but because I feel that pairing will provide more balance to this current set up like the days of Santi – Coquelin but with an added flavour of Torreira’s eye for passes as well. Who knows, it might be a springboard to greater things for the team.
The attack needs no tweaking as I believe we have one of the best attacks in the League. It’s just a matter of alternating players to suit the opposition.
Above all, I believe Emery knows best as he sees them regularly and knows who is suitable for whatever tactics or style he wants to deploy on game days. Regardless of what it is, who starts or who gets subbed, the interest of the team should come above any individual and as usual, I will continue to back and support the team always. I will urge every well-meaning gooner out there to do same as we’ve had enough of all the negativities surrounding the team. Let’s all be united in support and give the team the necessary backing they need home or away.