Jonathan Blaustein’s Column: High on Unai

“Arsenal will bring in a coach with a plan, which will probably include pressing. We’ll get our own new-style-coach who does the tactics, the preparation, runs hours of classroom time, and understands analytics properly. It will likely be an attacking style of football. (I don’t expect Simeone.)” March, 2018–

Tim knows a lot more about soccer than I do. He crunches numbers, and does in-depth statistical analysis.

I don’t.

Tim has seen the heights of Arsenal Football Club, what with the Invincibles and all.

I haven’t.

But I don’t believe I’ve embarrassed myself in my current guise as 7amkickoff’s resident opinion columnist. You might disagree, but I doubt you will, because my predictions and analysis have mostly been on-point. (I’m not perfect of course, and walked my ’17-18 season prediction back quickly, after Liverpool ripped us a new orifice on opening day.)

I quoted myself above, as you’ve seen, not to be pretentious, but to present my thoughts on the Unai Emery hire within the context of having accurately seen that Wenger was done, and Gazidis et al would have a particular vision for what comes next.

Therefore, I’m going to state with confidence that I like this hire a lot.

I’m going on record as being Pro-Emery, and believing this was the right call for Arsenal, under the circumstances. (Those circumstances being a 6th place club that has managed a very-public decline, in a league that features at least 2 teams with unmatchable financial muscle.)

Like everyone else, I was impressed by Unai Emery’s press conference yesterday. (How could you not be?)

But unlike everyone else, I spent the morning defending the hire to an English Tottenham fan who lives in Pittsburgh…before the press conference. Despite his dubiosity, I broke it down for him thusly:

Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, two of the hottest coaching properties of the last few years, were both fired from their last job. Each, despite proving themselves to be excellent motivators and tacticians, faced a dip, and was sacked.

They are also the two managers many Arsenal fans hoped would be the next coach on the Red side of North London. (It wasn’t to be, as we all know, and it pains me that I might root for Real Madrid on Saturday.)

Klopp and Tuchel proved they could punch above their weight, in the Bundesliga, with Klopp famously winning two league titles before Bayern went all Temple-of-Doom and cut out his team’s heart with a wad of cash. (And why is it there have been rumors about Lewandowski switching teams every year since?)

High-End Club Football in Europe is a ruthless game, and even managers/head coaches with proven track records, and loads of talent, can end up sacked if they’re not careful. (Chelsea is living proof that just getting fired does not make you a bad coach.)

Which brings us to Unai Emery.

My lede-quote says it all, in that he went on record yesterday as espousing all those philosophies: pressing, possession, and offensive/aggressive football. (We want to see some PROTAGONISTS on the pitch, bitches!)

He’s famous for his research and preparation, has won trophies with consistency, and is known, (Pre-PSG,) for leading teams with less talent, and smaller budgets, to punch above their weight.

For the foreseeable future, and maybe forever, Arsenal will have less resources, and presumably less talent, than Manchesters City and United, and likely Chelsea too. If Liverpool keep selling players for 140 million pounds pound a pop, they’ll also leap-frog us in purchasing power.

One way to increase the bottom line is to increase a player’s quality. It’s called development, and is all the rage in the NBA, including being the entire-current-business-model of my beloved Brooklyn Nets.

In hiring Sven Mislintat, Arsenal telegraphed that they would again be OK with being a selling club. It will reverse the last big move of the late-Wenger era, when we signaled that we would no longer sell off our best players to rivals. (After the poaching of the likes of Cole, Clichy, Nasri, and finally Van Persie, the fans were ready to riot.)

Just like our stadium-building effort came at perhaps the wrong time, (as petro-cash flooded the league,) Arsenal stopped selling players just when it became chic and smart to do so.

Look at the money to be made in buying low and selling high!

All you have to do is make cheap players into expensive players, through development, and/or placing them in the proper environment. (Dembele at Dortmund being a prime example.)

Tottenham and Liverpool are sitting on respective gold mines, which will fuel their next rebuilds. (If they eventually sell, as expected.) If Mo Salah could fetch a quarter of a billion pounds, then once Liverpool win some hardware, they’ll sell, and use that money to increase their lead on us.

Unless we get in on the same action. And we just did.

Emery, like Klopp before him, has a chip on his shoulder. He knows he’s better than his last exit, and is hard-core-eager to prove it.

He’s meticulous, and will most certainly improve this team with preparation and organization. Plus, there’s no way AFC would have hired him unless they were willing to back him in any impending power struggles with players.

Never-would-they-ever hire him if they planned to let him get undermined, as apparently happened with Neymar in Paris. (Ask any professor: all it takes is one asshole skeptic in the room to change the power dynamic entirely.)

So here we are.

Unai Emery will improve the team in general, through his methods, and each player, individually, through a personal development plan. Sven will find him cheap, raw, potential-mega-talent, which he’ll improve, and we’ll then sell off to try to catch up to (and hopefully pass) the Top 4.

I’m excited for this new chapter, and feel optimistic that it just might work. But whatever you do, I implore you, don’t think about Emery’s record vs. Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

Just. Don’t. Do it.


  1. U n ai both know that he’s a good fit at the Emery-ates, JB.

    It’s also clear that I’m not going to be the next Chris Rock.

    But seriously. Yep, it’s all about making THIS bunch of players punch above their weight. You tell your Spurs buddy that, pound for pound, we have a better squad of players. With Koscielny out, it reduces the advantage, so we need to make a REALLY good hire at centre back.

    And a really good hire at midfield stopper. Some writer pointed out yesterday that Emery always deploys an orthodox one, even buying an old Lassana Diarra to shore up things at PSG.

    Above everything I want a coach that
    (1) makes us competitive. Not makes us think we’re beaten before we take the field against pep

    (2) Makes us hard to beat. Dee-fence, that thing that allowed Houston to take a series lead (not insurmountable, mind) against GSW last night

    (3) And yes, make us punch above our weight.

      1. Spoiler? Breds, the game took place on Thursday night. It’s the internet age. This is not Game of Thrones.

        1. I think you (understandably) misread my tone. It was disappointment but really, in jest.

          Though I did plan to watch it tonight. Thursday night in the US is Friday early morning for me. It’s friday night now.

          You could ask what I’m doing watching bball on a friday night if you really wanted to be hurtful. But as it turns out, I’m not watching bball. So joke’s on you… or something. Sigh….

  2. I would quibble with the part about us signaling we’re a selling club once again.

    I think the five or six actual true “buying” clubs are fast approaching a saturation point for mature star players. Just because we’re going to focus on bringing in younger players and improving them doesn’t necessarily concede that we aren’t going to be able to keep the majority of them for our own purposes moving forward. I like the idea of getting out of the higher-end transfer market insanity and developing our own players, but not for selling purposes.

    1. Look, this is all speculation, but I’m suggesting that selling players, in this “new” economic environment, can be used to gain leverage against teams above us. It takes discovering and polishing diamonds, of course, but the profit margins on offer are now so great that being a “selling club,” if properly executed, can be a way to gain ground on teams with financial advantage. If I’m right, we won’t sell always, obviously, but will use the tactic to create financial value beyond Ivan hawking sponsorships, match-day tickets, and fish and chips.

      1. nothing wrong on selling.. as u pointed very well.. we chose NOT to sell at a very bad time.. also our player assets always depreciated in the latter part of wenger era.. selling an iwobi or jack or welbeck or even a ramsey every other season is not a bad ploy.. had we sold theo and giroud couple of seasons before we cud have had auba/laca much earlier..

      2. I’ve got no problem with selling. We sold Overmars and Petit and got Gilberto. We sold Wright and Anelka and bought Henry.(and built our training ground) I would be on board with such selling. Basically that’s what Liverpool are doing.

        Also, I think we’ll be better at sales now too. We always seemed to let players go for relatively cheap if they wanted out. I think that will change, one with the change in the structure, and two, because we can absorb those ‘losses’ of benching a player because it can still lead to high returns in sales.

    2. I agree Jack, proper player development as outlined by JB is not a small club thing at all, unless you define a small club as anyone outside the Forbes top 5 (Arsenal are 6th). But even Barcelona, Bayern and of course Ateltico and Dortmund use their academy as a the platform for what they do. They supplement that with talented youngsters from abroad, high value/low cost veterans discarded by the cash elite, and occasionally, a big money purchase too. I suspect that will be the Arsenal model.

  3. Great post Jonathan. Completely agree.

    It’s depressing to think how much ground Liverpool and Tottenham have made on us in such a short amount of time. Even just 4 short years ago, we were comfortably ahead of them in terms of finances, desirability (just ask Alexis), etc. 3 seasons ago we really should have won the league over Leicester.

    I’m one of those fans who still thinks even mid-late career Wenger was doing very good work for us, and, though we had avoidable weaknesses and fell frustratingly short, we were a good side with a very good, even great, manager. But late-late career Wenger was an unmitigated disaster. There’s no way of sugar coating it. Now we’ve just got to pick up the pieces, and I think the club is going about things the right way. I feel bullish for the Sven-Unai era.

    My one slight concern–and it’s a personal one that I accept many won’t share–is the discrepancy between how Emery (and Gazidis) describes his style, and how people who watched Spanish football closely describe it. He was saying all the right things about possession and being assertive–and for the most part I’m inclined to think he was being accurate and genuine–but others have used the word “cautious” a bit too much for my liking when describing his style.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m fine with counterattacking (maybe not against small teams that we can impose ourselves on, but otherwise), which means giving our opponents the ball a fair amount. Liverpool have become largely a counterattacking side under Klopp, for instance, without even remotely looking like a crude or defensive one. And I’m fine with playing forward at a faster pace (mostly on the ground!) meaning we cough the ball up more than is strictly necessary–provided we have a plan to win it back effectively, presumably by pressing.

    But I just can’t get myself to love watching a team one of whose dominant characteristics, by those that watch them regularly, is “cautious”. It’s just not in me as a football fan, no matter how many trophies it brings. I still remember the 2005 FA Cup final. Sure, it was nice to win a trophy, and having to play that way very occasionally against clearly better teams is fine. But in the end, wins like that only serve to whet one’s appetite for wins in which one’s team is (so to speak) truly the “protagonists”. Hopefully Emery will deliver those too.

    1. I remember Valencia being an exciting side at the time. And PSG..Well, they’re a bit removed from reality but still… I guess what I’m saying is the Sevilla Unai that people in Spain remember, may not be the real Unai..He’s supposed to be flexible in his approach so maybe it was Sevilla rather than him.

      1. Yeah, I seem to have a hazy memory of Valencia being entertaining too, but don’t remember all that well (probably only saw whole matches of theirs a handful of times in that era).

        And I think Sevilla were very far from a Mourinho-style borefest. I re-watched highlights of their Europa final win against Klopp’s Liverpool and they were really, really good in the second half.

  4. “Sven will find him cheap, raw, potential-mega-talent, which he’ll improve, and we’ll them sell off to try to catch up to (and hopefully pass) the Top 4.”

    Hopefully is the right word! I won’t be surprised if Emery never get us up higher than 5/6th. With the big differential btw 6th place and below in EPL we dont need to worry dropping lower than our last season’s position. The best bet for Arsenal is to win Europa/FA/League cups until they build themselves financially to compete with money. Basically we have to wait till the pep’s, jose’s, pochettino’s and klopp’s to go to get back 4 unless Emery rewrites his record against them and we really punch above our weight.

  5. “Sven will find him cheap, raw, potential-mega-talent, which he’ll improve, and we’ll them sell off to try to catch up to (and hopefully pass) the Top 4.”

    Hopefully is the right word! I won’t be surprised if Emery never get us up higher than 5/6th. With the big differential btw 6th place and below in EPL we dont need to worry dropping lower than our last season’s position. The best bet for Arsenal is to win Europa/FA/League cups until they build themselves financially to compete with money. Basically we have to wait till the pep’s, jose’s, pochettino’s and klopp’s to go to get back 4 unless Emery rewrites his record against them and we really punch above our weight.

    1. I don’t think top 4 is out of reach within two years with the new leadership and philosophy.

      Chelsea = downward cycle, especially if they sell Hazard and/or Willian
      Spurs = I give them one more year with this group and then they’ll start to sell off the big pieces (Kane, Alli, Christensen) to fund their next re-build.
      United = the great Mourinho implosion is coming. Just watch.

      1. Yeah, Dino, I don’t think that looks much like optimism. Surely we have what it takes to leapfrog two out of the four of Chelsea, Spurs, United, and ‘Pool and finish in the top 4, this season or the next. We did it for 20 years, for crying out loud!

        1. Yeah this. We really tend to undervalue ourselves and our players. They’ve been bone-headed and even unlucky, but they aren’t terrible. I think we’ll make top 4 in the coming season.

          1. Top 4 next season might be setting the bar too high and result in disappointment. I think the new group needs a full season to see who can adapt to the new Arsenal and who can’t.

            Next season we should definitely be in the final 4 of the Europa league again, perhaps get deeper into the FA and League Cup tournaments. But we may still very well finish 6th again (but much closer in point total to the top 4), even if we see a big improvement in our team play.

          2. We gambled on Kos’ fitness (and maybe Per’s?) this season. I think that’s why we dropped as badly as we did. Add an experienced CB and a DM..I think we make top 4. (The rejigged attack will win us games too)

          3. Sure, we *may* finish in 6th, but it’s hardly far-fetched to think we could jump two spots. And it’s not incompatible with also thinking that his ideas will take some time to bed in, so we won’t see Emery’s Arsenal at their best until 2019 at the earliest.

            People forget we only missed out on top four to Liverpool last season (i.e. 2016-17) by ONE point! This despite being completely hopeless for about four months of the season.

            I would argue our current squad–despite some glaring issues–is only obviously worse than City’s and United’s. It’s at least as good as Chelsea’s, Spurs’s, and Liverpool’s, even if their first 11’s are currently better (and even that is debatable).

            I love the man, but for much of the last 3 seasons Wenger had us performing well below the sum of our parts.

  6. “Those circumstances being a 6th place club that has managed a very-public decline, in a league that features at least 2 teams with unmatchable financial muscle.”


    First of all, really enjoyable read once again, Jonathan. Thank you. Second, that quote above: I think you’re absolutely right that, under the circumstances, Emery is exactly the kind of manager a team of our declining stature would want/need, and we’re fortunate he was on the market when he was.

    I’m saying all of this in hope, of course, but on paper we got the right coach. I realize what I wrote above might come off a bit defeatist, but I’m actually optimistic we can get back into the top four within two years, possibly even next season (especially if, as (again) I hope, our rivals get off to a sluggish start on account of their best players recovering from the World Cup!).

    Finally, you mention two clubs with unmatchable financial clout, but really there’s three, right? The two Manchesters and Chelsea. However, about the latter…I wonder if Abramovich is done with his little project? That would be delightful.

      1. He will if he wants his visa. I bet you Chelsea go on a spending spree this season.

    1. Abramovich still puts money into Chelsea, per an article in the Guardian this week about his visa isues, but not on the transfer side anymore. It seems they’re trying to be self-sustaining and shift funds towards a new stadium. So in the short term at least, they’re pretty much at our current level. Long-term it’s a bit harder to say whether he’s “done” or not.

  7. Also…could this finally be the year we buy a defensive midfielder??? Claude, I hope you’re right.

    I think we might see some big shifts in midfield, generally. The Pellegrini rumors are interesting (not a DM, I know). A two-footed player, you say? The rumors linking us to him and Seri suggest that one or both of Wilshere and Ramsey are off.

      1. I’m going to say he’ll give Xhaka one season at least to see what he can do with him.

        Watching the tactical breakdown videos of his teams, he tries to keep the midfield three tight and close to each other. This will help Xhaka because he won’t be as exposed in 1v1 situations with attacking midfielders. It’s Ramsey that I wonder about because buccaneering center midfielders are not part of his build-up play.

        That said, he seems clever enough to customize the set-up for his personnel.

        1. Among what was dictated to the press before the official announcement, wasn’t it said Ramsey was one of the players he planned to build around? If that’s correct, he may already have an idea or two what to do with Ramsey.

          This is great, a genuinely exciting time. One of the few occasions where I’m quite glad to not know what happens next.

        2. There’s nothing wrong with Xhaka, he’s a good player, but he is a player with particular strengths and winning tackles is not one of them. As Einstein once said, if you judge a fish on its ability to climb trees, it’s going to go through its whole life thinking it’s stupid. Personally I would pump for putting Ainsley and Ramsey next to him in a true 3 man midfield. I think that could be a nice balance of athleticism, passing, stamina and technique.

          1. I agree that sounds like a sold midfield, from our current options. But it puts Aaron as attacking midfielder, and doesn’t leave room for one of: Laca, PEA, Ozil and Mkhi. In your vision, who goes to the bench?

          2. Jonathan,
            I don’t think Doc is suggesting Ramsey would be “attacking midfielder” if that means something approximating a 10. In a proper midfield 3 you invert the triangle and play two box-to-boxers (number 8’s is probably a better term, since it avoids the very British connotation of guys who just run up and down the pitch) flanking a deep-lying player.
            Xhaka lies deep, sometimes slotting into the backline, and AMN and Rambo provide plenty of defensive cover and attacking impetus on either side. I think it makes a lot of sense, but it depends on Emery preferring a 4-3-3 over a classic 4-2-3-1.

            Like others, I think it’s going to be crazy difficult to start Ramsey, Ozil, Mikhi, PEA, and Laca all at the same time, regardless of what formation we use. Starting a workable front four out of the latter four–without at least one of them playing uncomfortably out of position–will be tricky enough. Adding Rambo as one of your 2 midfielders behind that front 4 is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

            The only way that might work, I think, is having Rambo and Mikhi play as #8’s alongside a DM, but
            a) that requires Emery “doing a Pep” and convincing Rambo and Mikhi to play deeper and more defensively than they’ve been accustomed to, like what Pep did with Silva and De Bruyne;
            b) it probably requires replacing Xhaka with a better defender, something I don’t think is going to happen in the first season at least
            c) it still leaves the question of how you play the other three as an attacking trio: do you shunt one of our CF’s out wide, or do you play a diamond so they can both play centrally (not the best formation, I think, and I doubt Emery will jump at that option)?

            In any event, I think if Ramsey doesn’t get sold this summer (which presumably only happens if he refuses to sign or we get a ridiculous offer), then we have to play him in a midfield 3 to get the best out of him, and that probably means one of the other four coming from the bench. I think Ozil and PEA are the first names in the attack, so it’s Mikhi and Laca “sharing minutes” (as we’d say in American sports).

        3. Ramsey isn’t going anywhere, if Emery has anything to do with it. One of the early stories around the new coach is that he considers Ramsey a key player in his setup.

          12 goals and 9 assists last season… 21 decisive interventions in 34 games. Emery isn’t mad enough to want to get rid of that kind of productivity. Plus what we get for him the last year of his contract would be 25m less than his actual market value.

          The only sensible question is whether Ramsey wants to sign a new contract. If he doesn’t by the end of July, we should put him on the market. But that should be a last resort.

          Somebody’s not going to be happy. I cant see Jack getting regular starts, if — as we should — we buy and deploy a proper DM. Screen defence, win ball, give to to the fancy boys.

          I also cant see how Auba, Laca, Ozil, Miki, Ramsey, Xhaka and Wilshere fit into the same team if defensive balance is important. But I’d play Ramsey ahead of Xhaka every day of the week. I also can’t see Seri, or Pellegrini. We’re overstocked with their type.

          1. Auba, Ozil, Miki, and Laca as the front 4 if we’re playing 4231

            I’d say Ramsey and Xhaka as the 2 (if both commit to their tactical role and Xhaka improves)

            433, you rotate one of those forwards out. You add a midfielder. (Or Miki in midfield)

            I think if Wilshere stays, there’ll be a role for him because he’s versatile (or Jack of all trades hah) He could conceivably play deep instead of Xhaka. He could play a b2b role. A No10, or even as an inside forward if speed is not our focus in that game. But regular starts? I think that’s difficult for him already with Elneny and AMN there, even if we don’t buy a DM.

          2. “I cant see Jack getting regular starts, if — as we should — we buy and deploy a proper DM.”
            –Injuries, my friend. We could get lucky, but every year we have plenty of injuries. Then again, he could be off this month, if Emery communicates to him that he’s not really in his plans (I suspect he’s ready to sign a new deal otherwise).

          3. I’ve kind of lost faith in Jack. He’s a squad player at best. And he can’t play deep to the level that we’d need him to. His ferrying (the Santi staple) isn’t good enough. And neither is his passing (the Xhaka staple). He played almost identical minutes to Ramsey and got 2 goals and 5 assists, so he’s no box to box either. I think that Jack is a good backup to Ozil in the 10. I’d have Elneny ahead of him the deep role.

            Oh btw, Elneny is our No. 4. I don’t think that that’s insignificant.

          4. The “Emery wants to build his side around Ramsey and PEA” line first came from the Sun. Take it with a huge grain of salt.

            That said, it makes sense he’d love Rambo, if he wants us to press.

          5. Claude,
            Funny, I think Jack is a pretty horrible backup to Ozil at 10. I’ve always thought he’s a (potentially very good) number 8, or bust.
            Since when are raw goals and assists numbers a reliable sign of whether someone is a good box-to-box CM (aka number 8) or not??

            I haven’t entirely lost faith in Jack, but I understand the perspective of those that have. For me his good form in Dec-Jan (and in the autumn Europa games) was significant enough for me to forgive his bad form in March-April (I think niggling injury and disappointment from missing out on the chance to impress for England may have had something to do with the latter).

            But I agree we shouldn’t be relying on him to become the midfield star we need, and I’d be ok if he moves on this summer.

          6. Shard,
            The 4-2-3-1 version of what you describe is just crazy unbalanced, I think. It relies on Xhaka and Ramsey playing out of their skins throughout the season (Ramsey to be way more disciplined in his positioning and distribution; Xhaka to be way better on defense and way quicker on the turn in order to beat the press). And it shunts someone very wide who wants to be in the middle (presumably you’re thinking Auba wide left?).

            The advantage of playing the 4-3-3 is not just the extra cover in midfield (from Mikhi or someone like AMN), but that it allows the wide forwards to tuck in and play in the half spaces, which suits all of our “wide” forwards, none of whom want to stay wide (Ozil, Mikhi, PEA/Laca, even Iwobi).

            I saw somewhere that Emery prefers for his wide attackers in a front 3 to tuck in and play in the half spaces, unlike, e.g. Pep with Sterling/Sane. So that suits us. Then again, I think that was on the PSG video, and apparently the PSG players pressured him into keeping their preferred 4-3-3 formation, rather than switching to his preferred 4-2-3-1. So, we’ll see…

        4. Jack,
          I also strongly suspect he’s going to give Xhaka at least a year to impress.

          “That said, he seems clever enough to customize the set-up for his personnel.”
          This, I think, is the key. The idea of him liking his midfielders to play close together came from the PSG video, and those guys–Verratti, Motta, Rabiot–were already very used to playing that way under Blanc. In fact, he allegedly adjusted in order to let them keep the tiki-taka style with which they were familiar. This has been portrayed in the media as him being bossed around by his players, but the flip side is he’s very adaptable: he saw that the clever midfield triangles played by that those guys was one of the strengths of his team, and he determined to adjust his tactics accordingly.

          Sadly, we don’t have three midfielders with that level of quality on the ball, so I expect he’ll have us playing a different way, maybe more like Sevilla (though I also think/hope we’re getting at least one midfield signing this summer).

    1. Well both are out of contract either now or in a year. It would be wise to make plans. But I think they’ll stay. Especially Ramsey.

      1. But…. this has been Ramsey’s best season ever. If we’re going to sell, sell at the top. Just sayin’.

        We have a surplus of attacking options, a deficit of true midfield anchors.

        I wouldn’t put too much stock into that article where Emery says he’s going to build around Auba and Ramsey. Where’d it come from? Sounds like b.s. to me.

        1. Oh I’m paying no heed to that article.

          True about selling high (sort of)*, but my view is you make the most of this window where you have talent in the form of Ramsey, Ozil, Auba, Miki and Laca. and you add a bit of quality in defense.

          Also, I don’t think we have another Ramsey. His engine and his ability at getting in to score. Plus decent technique and speed in midfield. Who fills that role? No one, you say, because we don’t need it. He disbalances us. No, I think I’d rather have a guy who can score 10-15 goals from midfield. The tactical coaching should take care of the rest. Plus he’s a fighter and I think is a good character to have around (I’d even make him captain)

          *He’s had his best season but has just one year left. Won’t be great, awesome, value that we’ll get for him. 35m? 40m? I don’t think that justifies a sale.

        2. There’s logic in selling at the top. But it’s not “at the top” price if you do so in the final year of a players contract. The logic essentially eats itself.

          There’s also no sense in selling one of your most productive players. You’ve got to be damn sure what’ll replace the 20* decisive interventions he had last season.

          That’s one-tenth of your goals and more than one-seventh of your assists.

          That’s second in goals scored behind Laca, 2nd in assists behind Ozil.

          That’s 3 fewer assists that Mesut Ozil (12).

          Played just over half as many minutes as Xhaka, but has more assists (the caveat being that he plays further forward).

          Any way you look at this it makes no sense. If he had 3 years left, that’d make sense. Player in his peak, mid-contract. Unless he won’t re-sign, it makes no financial or footballing sense at all to sell him this summer.

          *correction to above post, his G/A were 11/9

          1. Sure, but,
            a) He might not sign, and after last summer, I don’t see any fans wanting to keep him like we did Alexis. We learned our lesson.
            b) Surely we might get more than 30-50m for him, even with one year left on his contract? Doesn’t it depend on interest from other clubs, and how strong our hand is, i.e. if he’s willing to re-sign then that strengthens our position? I mean, didn’t City offer us 60m for Alexis last summer, even when everyone knew he wasn’t going to re-sign and wanted out? Ramsey isn’t quite in that bracket, but who knows, prices could go up even higher this summer (the bubble is going to burst at some point, but maybe not this summer)? I agree you don’t sell him for 35m like we did Ox (provided he’s willing to sign). But if a bidding war pushes the price above 50m, I think we have to think seriously about that.
            c) As always, it depends on what our plans are for replacing him.

          2. (a) Not signing is a completely different argument. I’ve already said that if he doesn’t re-sign by end of July he should be sold, so that point’s moot. We can take that off the table. My point addresses only the argument to “cash in now, on a high.” Which is an argument that undermines itself, because you’ll realise nowhere near his true value.

            (B) Whatever figure you want to guess at, it does not change the reality that players in the last year of their contract fetch far less. Unless of course you want to argue that Ox was a 35m player?

            The bidding war scenario? Sounds fanciful. Can you name another scenario in which that has happened with a player in the last year of his deal and club having reduced leverage? A club can’t plan transfers and budgets on the basis of a hoped-for bidding war. And if a bidding war is what you need to fully realise the players’s value, you might as well put that tooth under a pillow now. A hoped -or bidding war is not a financial strategy.

            So we agree that if he doesnt re-sign, sell. Let’s assume the player is willing to re-sign. Do you still sell, for the reason that Jack espouses? So for significantly less than his market value, you sell your best all-round offensive/defensive player and player of season?

            And here’s where the argument is especially screwy. It could cost a lot more than you’ll get for Ramsey to replicate what he brings to the team.

            A club that has ambition and wants to improve its league position and prospects doesn’t sell its best players … in this case its most effective all-round player, and its POTS. Again, the caveat. If he does not want to sign, sell him. After the Alexis debacle — and Alexis was our most effective player season before the last — it should be policy that we sell contract rebels.

            There aren’t many players of Ramsey’s type in the EPL. There are better players, like De Bruyne, but Ramsey’s all-round type is rare. Don’t for the life of me understand why, for purely financial considerations, you’d flog him for significantly less that his value, if you had the chance to re-sign him.

            I’d agree with you if he was halfway through his contract, or has 2 years left. But he isn’t, and he doesn’t. If Aaron Ramsey wants to re-sign for Arsenal, that’d be wonderful news for the club.

          3. Claude,
            I don’t think we’re really disagreeing about much; it’s just you’re choosing to close off a possibility ahead of time before we know if it will come to fruition, whereas I’m leaving all options open. It may be unlikely, but it’s not crazy to think we will fetch more for Ramsey if 2+ clubs really want him, and not crazy to think 2+ clubs will really want him. Take Alexis: if you (like me) think Mikhi was worth more than 20m, then the fact that United and City both wanted Alexis meant we got more for him than we would have if just City were interested. That’s all I’m saying.

            Now, you can insist that, whatever extra amount that extra interest adds to what we’re offered for him, it will be far below his “true market value”. I suppose that’s probably true, but how do we even gauge what that value is, in this crazy market? Better just to ask ourselves: “who else can we buy for (e.g.) 60m, if that’s the amount we can get for Ramsey?” If the answer is “one Gylfi Siggurdson and a backup keeper,” then I’d agree: don’t sell Rambo! But if the answer is, say, “2+ defensive/midfield players that are relatively young and will slot right into our starting 11,” then maybe we should sell. I don’t think it’s fanciful to suppose we could get that kind of money.

            The other thing is that, if he’s willing to sign a new contract, then even if he hasn’t yet done so, I think that strengthens our hand, due to the fact that, in negotiations the buying club can’t use the fact that Ramsey is well known to want out of Arsenal at all costs (like Alexis) to push the price down.

            But I agree with you: it’s a bad idea to *plan* to sell *before* seeing the interest and what we might be able to get. I just would be operating with the understanding that we need to be prepared to go into next season without Ramsey, if it comes to that. If he wants to sign for a reasonable salary, and we don’t have reason to think someone’s about to throw stupid money at us for him, then I’m all for signing him up asap.

        3. I don’t think it makes zero sense. Ramsey is not a consistent season-to-season player, largely because of injuries (perhaps caused by his relentless running). Remember that after his break-out season in 2013-14, it was followed by a few mediocre ones prior to his outstanding (mostly latter half of) 2017-18, and not all of those mediocre seasons can be attributed to personnel or tactical changes.

          Look, Ramsey is one of my favorite players at the club. I would not like to see him go. It’s just that I can just about understand why the club might sell now and buy someone a little more robust and consistent.

          We’ll see.

  8. PFO, I prefer the 433 as well. But playing a 4231 against say the bottom 10 sides in England? I think we could overpower them and get away with it. It will need Xhaka to be more aware and quicker on the turn and Ramsey willing to help him out. It will need the CBs to be entirely switched on for the long ball over the top ,and it could go wrong. But I think it can just as easily lead to us running up big scorelines. The 4-0s, the 6-1s that we used to get.

    Emery did say he’d rather win 5-4 than 1-0 🙂

    1. Where did he say that?

      I think it’s possible, but then I’m an optimist who thinks most formations are possible with quality players provided you train them properly. I just don’t think it’s ideal, so I’d rather see us plan for a different ideal starting 11/formation, even against the bottom sides.

      I also really don’t want to see PEA regularly shunted out wide in a 4-2-3-1, as I think it would be a massive waste. So much depends on whether we can teach Laca how to play wide, which I think could happen, but even then, I think that works better in a 4-3-3 for the reasons I stated above about those players tucking in. Or we embrace the 4-4-2 diamond.

      Otherwise I think we have to consider dropping some of our best attacking players in order to find better balance. But dropping players doesn’t mean they never start or don’t get enough minutes.

      1. Where did he say that?


        In an interview given to that appeared yesterday or the day before.

    1. Not much. But I didn’t know he was just 21. He looks composed and intelligent. Though to be honest, whenever I watched Roma I would be looking at Cengiz Under, or Strootman in midfield who I’m surprised has never been linked with us.

  9. A starting eleven if we didn’t buy or sell anyone this summer:


    Ok, I threw up in my mouth a little bit adding those CBs in there, and it illustrates just how badly the club does need to buy in that position. Also GK.

    There would be enough games that we would need Henrik to play forward, so the omission isn’t intended to imply that he shouldn’t play.

    I guess my question is more about the midfield: If we didn’t buy or sell anyone this summer, how would you feel about a midfield trio of those dudes? I know Tim wouldn’t like Elneny in there!

    1. This is also to reply above to JB, PFO, et al. regarding the front 3:

      I think that’s the least important part of the team. If the midfield is able to win the possession and territorial battle, and if the defenders are able to consistently cover their assignments, then tinkering with the front 3 is like choosing your favorite flavor of ice cream. I am quite certain that any combination of Auba/Laca/Ozil/Mkhi will be able to score goals and I am also certain all 4 will get lots of playing time.

      The most crucial aspect of the front guys, in the offensive phase, is that they are able to take their chances, and that is a particular strength of both Laca and Auba. So, I am not too worried about leaving anyone out of that mix. I am hugely worried about finding a functioning midfield because that’s been the central issue to this team’s woes since Santi got crocked and I consider the midfield the backbone and the most important part of any high level outfit. This is why I’m so excited about Ainsley. With his physical potential, he really can be “the answer” when paired with some experienced, technical players.

      1. Yeah, it’s really well put, Doc. I think finding the balance up top is a *little* trickier and more important than you suggest, but I agree the much tricker and more important issue is central midfield.

        And I’d absolutely have AMN in the side ahead of Elneny. I somehow really like and entirely don’t rate Elneny at the same time (and I mean I like him as a player, not just a person). Is that even possible?

      2. I don’t see AMN starting regularly next season. He’s still young and inexperienced, and that showed in a number of performances this past season. I think another season of domestic cup and early Europa action, with the odd PL sub or start, as injuries or fatigue require, would be a good thing.

        1. I agree (unless he blows everyone away in preseason), but that’s why I think we need to bring one CM recruit in. Elneny should not be in our regular starting 11, and Jack should only be if a) he’s playing really well, and b) we sell Ramsey and/or find enough defensive balance behind him (unlikely with Ramsey and Xhaka as his partners). So, provided we adopt something like the formation you suggest, we need at least one more addition in midfield.

        2. Maybe my trust in him is irrational/faith based at this point, but I think you gotta play talented guys at some point and I don’t think Ainsley’s going to improve much more while scrounging minutes on the back end of the roster or in meaningless games. I think he’s the perfect clay from which to craft a modern midfielder and his attributes fit Emery’s proposed high octane style to a T, and he’s the perfect foil for Xhaka’s physical limitations. Count me as a supporter of #TeamAinsley. If he’s not ready, it’ll be apparent sooner rather than later. If he is, we could have the next big thing on our hands. That’s a risk worth taking. We can always go back to El-Neny, who also impressed me at the end of last season but doesn’t have the #ceiling I expect Ainsley to have.

          1. Then again, you make good points.

            I guess I side with Bun only to the degree that, if there’s someone older/better we can get for reasonable money, who plays roughly the same role, then I don’t want us holding back from the purchase because we’re afraid of holding AMN back. I think it still makes sense to bring in someone older/better unless our resources don’t allow it. And there will still be plenty of minutes for AMN this year (should be more than last year), and plenty of time for him to nail down a starting spot for us in the future.

            I probably wouldn’t play Elneny ahead of him, though.

  10. I always liked Lichtsteiner but at 34 years of age, is that still a good fit for us? On the face of it, I like bringing in some veteran competition for Bellerin, and he will come on a free. Anyone seen him play more recently than Euro 2016?

    1. I think it is, since he’ll obviously be backup, provided the club have done their research and know his body’s still in good shape.

    2. His experience will be key. He’s won all 7 of Juventus’ titles. He knows what it takes to win and he’ll probably teach Hector and youth/reserve team RBs something about the position too. At this point he’s not going to be anything great but he’s tidy and focused. Though Italy is a weird league to judge players in, and Juventus’ dominance makes it even more so, all in all I would see this signing as a positive. On a free and likely not much wage cost either.

  11. We were 13 points off top 4 taking goal diff into account. Even with the current rabble, with proper coaching we can close most of that gap. Throw in positive changes in personnel and I am very optimistic about top 4 next season, maybe even better.

    The handbrake applied by late era Wenger’s dinosaur methods, now released, must be taken into account. The Colney Holiday Camp has closed!

  12. The thing that’s going to happen — because it happens at all clubs when they change managers (and so we’re not used to it) — is some players who weren’t that great under the old set-up will suddenly come to life and be considered undroppable, while others now considered indispensable will go in the other direction. Sometimes it’s just one or two players for which this happens, but it’s going to happen.

    I fervently hope it’s more in the latter category than in the former (and all signs point to Emery as keen on developing players), and I would be particularly interested to see if he could coax the consistently great player that currently lies dormant in Xhaka and Mustafi, for example.

    1. Sorry, I mean, “hope it’s more in the former category than in the latter,” obviously!

      1. My prediction is that Xhaka will thrive under Emery because he will be operating in a more modern midfield setup and presumably won’t be asked to cover all of midfield on his own. I think all the CB’s will benefit from also not being exposed by the porous midfield, so Mustafi will profit.

        And the losers? Ozil, no doubt. Emery won’t indulge him nearly to the point that Wenger did and he will have to pull his weight without the ball. It’ll be interesting to see if Emery has the guts to drop him after a particularly low energy, mopey performance. I hope no power struggle develops there because I love Ozil’s game and I think Arsenal needs him, but he’s not going to be able to run Emery out of town the way Neymar did.

  13. If we as a club are serious about challenging for things, we need to keep our best players, supplement what we have with quality, and raise the level of the young and fringe players. And we need to toughen the team tactically, and make them hard to beat.

    Job 1… a CB of sufficient calibre and authority to come in right way to replace Koscielny. A Varane-level player, if such a person is willing to come to a Europa club, or someone our excellent scouts know that we havent heard of. HE MUST BE ABLE TO COME IN AND PLAY. And please, no Jonny Evans. He is not better than Mustafi. He would have been Arsene’s folly, but Arsene is gone.

    Job 2… An elegant beast, to slot in front of the back 4 right away

    Job 3.. Holding the nucleus of the squad together, by keeping Auba, Ozil, Ramsey, Laca, Xhaka, Miki, Monreal. Try to lock Ramsey down asap. Welbeck is not good enough, even as a 3rd choice striker — take the money from Turkey, if it’s truly on offer. Bye Ospina — you were better player than many appreciated.

    Job 4… a young goalkeeper (ideally mid-20s), to replace a past-it Petr Cech. Cech 2nd choice.

    Job 5… Raising the level of players who are good, but need to take step up… Bellerin, Iowbi, Kolasinac.

    Job 6… Making young players ready for consistent first team play… Holding, Chambers, AMN, Nkeitah and Nelson

    Im hearing, simultaneously, arguments for selling Ramsey and buying Evans (though not at the same time). I dont think those get us where we need to be.

    Tim said something recently that I agree with… he’s a football fan, not an accountant. And he couldnt be arsed about income, valuations and transfers fees. Spot on.

    1. Agree with all of that except Welbeck, and I’m one of the guys ‘pushing’ for Evans. But the latter part is only as the SECOND cb to replace Mustafi and that too because I’m ‘realistic’ about our budget. I value experience in defense.

      I also would like Nzonzi because of his experience and I think he’d be more ready than say Ndidi who Tim said would push us towards a title challenge. But wouldn’t disagree with Ndidi or Gueye.

  14. “The other thing is that, if he’s willing to sign a new contract, then even if he hasn’t yet done so, I think that strengthens our hand, due to the fact that, in negotiations the buying club can’t use the fact that Ramsey is well known to want out of Arsenal at all costs (like Alexis) to push the price down.”

    So if Ramsey wants to sign on (presumably at the encouragement of the club), it then simply become leverage, for the club, to flog him still? You must know that doesn’t make sense, PFo.

    I agree there are GENERAL points we agree on.

    A bidding war to drive up a player’s price is not one. Where’s it happened before, I ask again, that the value of a player in the last year of his contract skyrocketed, because his club engineered a bidding war between 2 or more clubs?

    And if its strategy for realising the player’s true value is a bidding war, then the strategy is crazily high-risk and bonkers right out of the gate. Creating a tripartite wrangle, even if you could, is not impossible, but it’s far-fetched. You create MORE uncertainty with 3 parties, and you risk being left with the player (whose value would depreciate like a dropped stone), and whose motivation you’ve wrecked. Do you honestly think that, say, Liverpool and Real (or any 2 clubs) would duke it out to the death, and end up paying 60m on player whose bid opened at 40? In the last year of his contract? Really?

    It also amuses me that gooners think that other clubs would fall over themselves and pay huge money to sign players that we don’t want, and show ourselves desperate to sell.

    That’s just the financials. From a footballing point of view, it makes even less sense to me.

    1. Hmm, it’s almost like you’re deliberately misunderstanding what I wrote so as to strengthen your own argument…

      1. “It also amuses me that gooners think that other clubs would fall over themselves and pay huge money to sign players that we don’t want, and show ourselves desperate to sell.”

        “Fall over themselves,” “we don’t want,” “show ourselves desperate to sell”??

        There’s so many things uncharitable about that summary of what I said (and with the rest of your description of what I said, but I have a life to get back to) that I don’t know where to start. For once I’ll try to keep it relatively brief, because it’s tiring trying to argue with someone who seems determined to twist my words.

        But here’s all I was saying: if Ramsey’s willing to “play ball” with us about re-signing and his representatives are in negotiations about a new contract this summer, AND THEN a big club comes knocking enquiring about his services (which wouldn’t be surprising since he’s a coveted asset), we should at least listen to them. And when we do, unlike with Ox and Alexis, we won’t be stuck basically having to accept their low initial offer or face seeing him go on a free. And they won’t be able to say, “look, it’s an open secret he doesn’t want to play for you and will run his contract down before re-signing, so you better take our one and only offer now.” We’ll be in a stronger position than that. So if they really want him, they have to make it tempting for us, even if our negotiations with him are still ongoing. (By the way, plenty of players are open to re-signing at a club if the money’s right, but also open to moving on, without going on strike or flat-out refusing to sign or making absurd salary demands or threatening to run down their contract all the way a la Alexis and Ox; sometimes those players still move on if the right offer comes in.)

        1. As for the “bidding war” thing, maybe you and I have a different understanding of what that term means, so maybe my use of it was confusing. But I explained what I meant by it, and even gave you an example: City and United both after Alexis.

          I am not saying we “flog him” to any interested party at the first opportunity. And I’m not saying we could engineer some crazy war where his price tag suddenly doubles. I’m saying we should keep our options open and be opportunistic: e.g. even if we don’t get what we’d get for him if he had 3 years on his contract, if the fee for him could go towards strengthening our team with, say, at least 2 new players that could step into the first 11 and make us better, then it might be worth considering. You want to forestall all consideration of that (perhaps unlikely) possibility ahead of time, for reasons that escape me.

          I’m done on this topic.

  15. a player that i believe will get the nod with the new boss is elneny. he’s not more talented on the ball than xhaka but he, and coquelin, are more complete midfield players than xhaka; hence, they can affect the game more than xhaka.

    to be a good dm, you have to be one of the smartest players on the field. xhaka has never been mistaken for that. the same goes for maitland-niles. unlike xhaka, he’s very young. niles’ limiting factor is inexperience. he’ll continue to progress but he can’t play dm for arsenal yet.

    i’m thinking arsenal will play a 4-3-3 with a midfield three of elneny, ramsey, and iwobi (if no one else comes in). that gives arsenal compactness, robustness, work rate, and intelligence from players that won’t hide. we’ll see what emery does with xhaka.

  16. Now THIS should tell us what Emery is about. Maybe even his plans for the likes of Xhaka and Ramsey. His philosophy. His plans.

    (Tim removed this link to stolen content)

    1. Hey Shard, thanks so much for finding/sharing that. What a read! I was on board with the hire, as I wrote above, but now I’m genuinely excited. Easy to see how he would have impressed the Arsenal board with his intelligence, self-awareness, and analytical skills.

      1. And what about this, on DMs? Read every line, gooners? So much insight.

        (Tim removed this stolen content)

    2. Great read indeed! I wonder who he thinks will be the leader at Arsenal? Gazidis? Himself? One of the players?

  17. And oh, I hope that Liverpool get stuffed today.

    Nothing personal. I like Klopp. But football dislike, like politics, is local.

    Liverpool fans are an entitled bunch, and we’d never hear the end of their self-glorification.

    1. You got your wish, though I actually was rooting for them. Real Madrid just seems like a football club constructed by a Hollywood producer, with players who look like they spend as much time cultivating their personal brand as their football. Talk about entitlement at Liverpool is like talking about the brightness of the moon; they are the club with the ultimate, they would say, only entitlement: to be the best club and have the best players. And for three years now, they have been the best. It was too much to hope that Liverpool might break that hegemony, and although I agree that their gloating would’ve been hard to suffer, I would pay that price to feel like football is not predetermined, to feel like watching the games has a point because there really can be outcomes other than the dominance of the same 2-3 teams on a rotating basis. More than that, I quite like Klopp and the shaggy, sweaty, brutally honest way his Liverpool play the game, even if Zidane’s band of celebrity athletes make them look like a second league outfit with those gaudy possession stats and silky buildup play. I just prefer that to athletes who look like they just walked out of beauty salon. Zidane himself is a celebrity too, a perfect maestro, his Gallic sense of cultured elegance and his own legendary playing career combining to exude a sense of inevitable perfection demanded by his paymasters. Part of me wants to celebrate that and part of me wants to despise it, but my inner football fan prefers Liverpool’s unorthodox authenticity and underdoggedness. It seems the furies though prefer the perfectly coiffed artists, or they wouldn’t have robbed us of Mo Salah or have Jurgen Klopp convinced that Loris Karius was up to the task of starting this game.

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