Just win the winnable games and all will be forgiven

Arsenal lost to Chelsea 3-2 and I think we can firmly state that this one is on Unai Emery. 

It’s popular to blame the players and we did see some problems with the personnel in this match. Both of the center backs look slow and seem to have problems concentrating for a full game. At the sight of Pedro just ghosting Sokratis and Mustafi my stomach dropped and I honestly felt bad for them. 

The goal move was started by Bellerin chasing Willian into midfield. Then Mkhitaryan didn’t track the run of Alonso until it was too late, Pedro stood a few yards offside and gained an advantage over Sokratis, who was waxing philosophical over a blade of grass, Alonso crossed the ball with no pressure, and Pedro just waltzed in for a goal. 

For the second goal the defense was all the way up at the half-way line! I can’t tell you how dangerous it is to give any player 50 yards to run in to. But I’ll just put it this way: the pass to them doesn’t have to be terribly accurate, they don’t have to be terribly fast, they don’t have to dribble well, and their shot can be kind of sloppy. Even a player like me can score in those situations.

And those weren’t the only times that Arsenal were cut apart by Chelsea. Defensively we are a sick team. 

Offensively we were also sick! But this time I mean that in the way that people mean “literally” to mean “figuratively”. 

Arsenal created four big chances in that half. That’s the same number of big chances that Arsenal created in all of last season against all of the top 6 teams (away)!

Emery took Xhaka off at half time, brought on Torreira and then instructed the fullbacks to sit deep. In my Behind the Numbers piece for the Arsenal Review I show the first half and second half pass maps for the fullbacks. It’s pretty stunning. 

As much as we like to think that we missed Xhaka’s sprinkler passes, we didn’t. We missed the runs of the fullbacks.

People also forget that Xhaka probably should have gotten a red card for his “tackle”. I’m gonna catch some stick for this but I don’t care: you cannot just run over and kick your opponent knee high. And he did that out of frustration. It was an intentional and reckless foul. 

So, in the second half, he made the changes, we defended deep, and… we lost the match. We know what he did, but we don’t know why. Was he trying to save the defense further blushes? That didn’t work. Was he trying to show the team something? Was he experimenting with the midfield? Was he dropping Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil? It’s hard to tell.  

That means Arsenal have now lost the first two matches under Unai. Emery’s record against other top teams has also taken a further beating. He still has zero wins over Pep (in 12 matches), and zero wins over Man City (in 3 tries) and zero wins over Chelsea (in three tries).

That said, it’s not the end of the world. We have 8 matches upcoming that are all winnable games. West Ham (H) Cardiff (A) Newcastle(A) Everton(H) Watford(H) Fulham(A) Leicester(H) Palace(A). Arsenal need to just get 20 points from the first ten matches and we will be back in contention for 4th place. That means we can even win just 6 of those 8 and as long as we draw two, we should be ok. I have Cardiff getting relegated, Watford as a relegation team and Newcastle as a relegation side. Leicester is also way down at the bottom of my prediction table as well. Everton is going to be a tough game and Palace and Fulham are going to be tough. But Arsenal should be able to beat most of those teams on that list and get at least a point off the other two. 

This brings me to my season predictor. A few words about how this works. I took my xG goal difference rank, I used the team’s transfer business (graded), and then just moved teams around as I saw fit. The thing you have to understand about predicting the final league table is that there is so much variation in terms of injury and whatnot that you can really only sort of predict groups. Top four, mid-table, and relegation fighters. 

That’s why so many stats houses change their predictions after every week’s matches and also why they use percentages. Anyway, here’s my one and only League Table prediction (which will be entirely wrong and laughable).

Man City
Man United
Wet Hams

I may actually write something tomorrow (on here) because I noticed that Wenger gave an interview and it will tie in with the work I’m doing. 



  1. You have Burnley getting relegated which tells me two things:
    Either your xG model can’t cope with their weird defensive system
    You’re not in the “Sean Dyche is a Warlock” camp.

    Chelsea are a strange team at the moment, unfortunately that team for the most part knows how to defend and we don’t. My hope is that when it clicks, we go on a points grabbing spree like Chelsea after the season before’s switch to a back 3. Hopefully it’s not too late in the season!

    1. Sean Dyche got maximum overdrive out of his players. And like the movie, it was awful.

      Also his team hardly ever plays black players and I find that real weird.

  2. Hopefully the attacking players won’t be quite so wasteful in the future. But the lower teams are not going to play like Chelsea did…they will defend deep with numbers, so we won’t get as many of those kinds of chances.
    However, that won’t matter without settling some of the other issues:
    Ozil – I’ve defended him up to this point. But we really need more from the team’s highest paid player. Look at how much difference Hazard made for Chelsea when he came on.
    Defense – Aside from Monreal and Cech, was pretty poor. Kosc may never be back to the player he was before. Which leaves us with not a lot of good options. Don’t understand at all why Chambers went on loan. He hasn’t seemed any worse than Mustafi and Socrates have been in the first two matches. And maybe we just need to move Bellerin to a winger type position.

    1. “Don’t understand at all why Chambers went on loan. He hasn’t seemed any worse than Mustafi and Socrates have been in the first two matches.”
      Chambers is an average defender. Against Crystal Palace, Schlupp easily turned Chambers for the first goal. Against Spurs, Chambers made a poor clearance for Moura’s goal, then Kane toyed with Chambers for the last goal. In that Spurs game, Chambers also lost Kane when he hit the bar, and he gave away the ball to Moura who should have scored.

      1. No argument…he’s average. But I haven’t seen any sign that Mustafi and Socrates are any better. And Chambers is actually a decent passer. And he’s English, so he helps with the homegrown player rule.

  3. Tactically, I’m inclined to believe that Emery used the first 2 games as loss leaders. You could tell that he REALLY fancied our chances against Chelsea, but his picks tell me that he took the opportunity to experiment and learn more about his team in the hothouse of truly competitive matches.

    He knows more about coaching that I ever will, but I could have told him two things for free…

    One, Xhaka and Guendouzi will not work in double pivot. Particularly if, against City, Xhaka was the player furthest back protecting the back 4. Tim, you mention Xhaka’s kick. I think he did something similar when a play ran past him. Yanked in both matches, his biggest problem is slow to read danger. Adrian Clarke on the Arsenal website did a pretty good breakdown of his defensive switch off for the Bernardo Silva goal.

    Two, we gave up a goal to Chelsea in the pre-season friendly by playing an absurdly high line, and someone (Jorginho) I think simply punting a ball over the top for someone to run onto. Don’t do that again, I’d have told Emery. Why do you think Pedro was playing, playing centrally, and hanging off the last defender? For precisely that. It wasn’t rocket science, and it was a tactical fail by Emery.

    As for the predictions, I have United finishing above both us and Spurs, and us and Chelsea duking it out for 4th. Unlike you, Im going on nothing except my (too ample) gut.

    The impressive thing about Brighton beating United yesterday was that they didnt play Allardice/Pulis ball. The held off United rather more comfortably than the final score suggested, and played with real composure. The point being that those “winnable” games aren’t gimmes. But it would be nice to run up a points score, now that Emery has a better idea about his team’s strengths and weaknesses.

    1. claude, you’re spot on with the foolish high line approach arsenal played with. you could do that with previous arsenal sides as they had the fastest back line in world football. this is not one of those teams. chelsea’s runs were not complicated. chelsea and even city last game, made simple diagonal runs behind one of the center backs. even kante made a couple. when there’s no pressure on the ball, you’ve got to drop in, not try and play offsides. that’s suicidal. if they’re going to stay high, they’ve got to talk and got to put bodies on runners. no way mustafi should have been isolated against morata. there’s ever only going to be one winner.

      1. We can definitely put this one on Emery.

        But mainly because he bought into the Gazidis line of “improve the players that are here”. He can’t teach Mustafi to read the game like a sweeper. That footballing instinct is like the instinct born strikers have for the goal. You either have it or you don’t. The instinct and ability to play the sweeper role against bigger faster players was why fit Koscielny was so effective for us.

        And Emery can’t turn Xhaka into a two-way player either. There’s lots of commentary on social media defending Xhaka because we were less fluid without him in the 2nd half. People accusing anyone criticising him of being “hateful”. The guy’s a near-genius one-way player playing in a league that demands two-way players. Picking up tactical yellows is fine but he picks them up to cover up his own failed defensive actions and becomes a liability.

        Emery made a point of telling the press (and sending a subtle message to Sven and Raul) he played a 19-yr old and a 22-yr old in midfield. Young Guendouzi has more tackles and interceptions than anyone in the league after 2 games. Iwobi showed real class. Bellerin showed he’s been working on his final ball.

        The kids are alright and we were very close to a positive result against our bogey team. With a speedier CB our tactical plan in this game would’ve worked.

        1. If you press, you have to keep a high line. It comes with the territory. If you want to be a modernist football team, you press. Ipso facto, it’s what you give up to play the way you want to play.

          The goals didn’t come because the CB’s were too slow. Mustafi was goal side of Morata and there was pressure on the initial outlet pass. The mistake was that he allowed him to check back inside because he got too tight. The shot squirmed right under his butt which confounded Cech’s angles as well. The first one was about missed assignments. It looked like Pedro outran the whole defense but really he got in so easily because the team over-committed in midfield and then didn’t pick up runners well enough on three successive occasions. It was a goal that spoke of a lack of defensive cohesion, not individual shortcomings.

          In the second half, I didn’t see a deliberate ploy by Emery to play more conservatively. I think withdrawing Xhaka did make the midfield passing more conservative, but I thought Chelsea just dominated the space and the duels and eventually got a deserved goal. Arsenal were trying to play the same way but Chelsea shut the door in our faces and turned the screw rather effectively. The Kovacic substitution did a lot to turn the tide. I thought before that it looked a more even contest.

          And I could care less about Lacazette’s individual defensive chops. He should never be in a position to have to defend on the edge of his own box.

  4. Tim wanted to pick you brain. One of your commentors on the last post, BlackJew (BJ) came up with a great idea, that hit me as genius. Perhaps the way forward for arsenal is with a midfield of Ramsey, Guen and Torriera. This really reminds me of the versatile/athletic/rugged/dynamic mid-field France used to win the world cup. Ramsey is obviously Pogba and Guen/Torreira are Matuidi/Kante. Like BJ was saying this triad can potentially easily sequester opposition attacks and flip them into counte-attacks. Less about the press and more using a deft/energic midfield to enforce/control the game. Maybe Emery is not playing all his cards and keeping his powder dry with this one up his sleeve for the next winnable games.

    1. “Perhaps the way forward for arsenal is with a midfield of Ramsey, Guen and Torriera.”
      That midfield would be the best fit for Emery’s pressing game. However, there are two problems: 1. A lot of pressure on the young and relatively inexperienced Guendouzi and Torreira to protect the defense. It looks more like Project Youth (Fabregas-Flamini or Fabregas-Denilson) than the solid pairing of Petit/Vieira or Gilberto/Vieira; 2. The Arsenal pair of centerbacks is still an issue no matter what the midfield is: Sokratis has no pace and Mustafi’s reading of the game is poor.

      1. While I see your viewpoint, I totally disagree! The differences between the project youth are clear..1) while flamini was a hard-working player, he lacked the creativity seen in both torreira and guendouzi..2) football in England is becoming highly tactical and only tactically sound managers get away with serial wins.. 3) fabregas wasn’t really a player who covered lots of distance.. he was outright creative.. what makes a great team is balance between the core aspects of football namely, speed, creativity, flair, grit, awareness, and understanding.. and in that midfield combination, we have a good combination of all.. all three players cover lots of distance while on the pitch.. behind a combination of arguably the most creative player in England and a youngster who plays with flair and hunger to cement his place in a team like arsenal.. time is ticking and i don’t think it makes sense on tinkering between teams with players like xhaka in them.. btw, I kinda support your opinion about the defence..but then, Vincent company wasn’t the fastest of defenders when mancity won’t the league.. the secret being, you don’t get to break through the midfield so often..

        1. You missed my point. I made the comparison between the Guendouzi-Torreira duo and the Fabregas-Flamini partnership because of their relative inexperience and their position on the pitch. Guendouzi and Torreira are 19 and 22, about the same age as Fabregas and Flamini in 2007. Also, Guendouzi is a deep-lying playmaker like Fabregas while Torreira is a defensive midfielder like Flamini. If you watched the World Cup, you probably noticed that Torreira played as a typical No. 6 in front of the Uruguay back four. And that’s exactly the kind of role that Emery wants Torreira to play at Arsenal.
          “fabregas wasn’t really a player who covered lots of distance”
          That’s a lie. Fabregas’ legs are now rusty, but in his prime, he covered a lot of ground. In fact, when Chelsea won the PL title in 2015, Fabregas was the player who ran the most per 90 minutes on that team ( https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/chelsea/11570614/Who-is-the-hardest-working-Chelsea-player.html) and in the whole PL for the first half of the season (https://www.squawka.com/en/news/chelsea-midfielder-cesc-fabregas-has-officially-covered-the-most-ground-in-the-premier-league-this-season/239376#EL0fFzPmd510I0tX.97).
          And in 2016, Fabregas was also in the Top 10 of the players who ran the most in the PL (https://www.dailystar.co.uk/sport/football/517020/Premier-League-players-covered-most-distance-per-game-run-furthest-hard-working).
          “Vincent company wasn’t the fastest of defenders when mancity won’t the league”
          In his prime, Kompany had good pace (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1377417/Martin-Keown-Why-Vincent-Kompany-best-defender-Premier-League.html). Because of all his injuries, Kompany has lost a step, but he can still match the fastest strikers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgmrLHVloxg).

        2. I enjoy your prose and ideas, good sir! I rarely comment (previous name was SotaGooner) though I am a constant reader over the past number of years, which is my way of justifying that what I am writing is not meant to troll, but rather to expand and contribute to the forum.

          First, I think the 3 man midfield you’ve suggested is the best suited to Emery’s stated style of play. He has said that he prefers to press high up the pitch and the 3 man midfield of Guendozi, Torreira, Ramsey fits best into that style based off of their individual Communication, Decision Making, and Execution of Decisions as well as their game insight

          From there, I do take umbrage with your “core aspects of football” statement. The core aspects of football are attacking, defending, transitioning. The other traits of an individual footballer that you offer up are subjective in nature and therefore difficult to substantiate.

          If I may, I’d like to introduce some new vernacular to the forum that we as coaches use. All team functions (attacking, defending, transitioning) are based off of the players Communication, Decision Making, and Execution of Decision and within those core functions are the team tasks specific to attacking and defending and which are accomplished by completing football actions (passing, shooting, pressing, etc).

          When we use the these terms, we take subjectivity out of the equation making it easier for players to understand and apply our ideas. Terms like “creativity”, “flair”, “grit” are subjective and non-contextual in nature. How is a player to understand what I mean if I tell them that they need more “grit” if they have a different, subjective definition of the term than I do? Even terms like “technique” and “tactics” are subjective and non-contextual. For example, for a player to have technique, they must execute a decision based on communication or rather than telling a defender to “be more aggressive”, we would say “be closer to the player you are defending so it is more difficult for them to receive the ball”. We have now removed subjectivity and introduced football specific language and a specific individual task within the team task of disrupting the build-up during the team function of defending.

          As an experiment (if you’d like to play along), where would you consider “flair” to fall in the Communication, Decision Making, Execution of Decision spectrum? How can you describe “flair” using objective, football specific terminology?

          Thank you for your contributions and insights into the game and I hope to challenge you (and the rest of this forum) to add objectivity to our discussions and to use football specific language when contemplating and discussing the game.

          1. Thanks extra much sir… very informative response..I must admit, I’m just about a total novice in coaching and from your response and name (coach) it’s obvious you know more than I do, and I’m open to gaining more from pros like you.. maybe I should have said core aspects of a team based on individual characteristics..could that be a more appropriate statement?
            I love arsenal as a team and football as a sport.. I really can’t point out the exact reason why I love the club..I just fall in love with them and football every time I watch them play..

    2. Or you just go “the City way”. Bellerin in the Mendy role. Monreal tucks in like Walker and supports the backline. Torreira and Fernandinho are pretty similar as DM. Ramsey could be our De Bruyne. Özil could probably do the same job David Silva does. That leaves us with Aubameyang, Lacazette (as our Agüero and Jesus) + one more up front depending on which kind of style Emery prefers. Everyone plays in their right positions and we could benefit from that Auba and Laca partnership.

  5. Meh. I don’t understand what’s happening but for me, but we look like a team destined for 6th place, which is fine with me so long as Emery gets the year to sort it out and nobody pulls the panic switch. I hope Mislintat and Sanllehi are watching and can see the parts that need to be shifted out – in fact there’s still time boys! If we sold Mustafi this week I honestly don’t think we’d be any worse off. And if, say, Juventus came in for Ozil, I’d take the offer, yes he offers a lot offensively but Emery needs grittier two-way players. Xhaka too.

    My question after two weeks; Is it impossible to play Aubameyang and Lacazette together in a front 2 right from the get go? and still play a high pressing game? These two seem to have genuine respect and appreciation for each other off the field, why not see how the chemistry works?
    Iwobi/Torreira/Guendouzi/Ramsey (Iwobi and Ramsey will naturally drift inwards to the half-channels)

    1. I think Lacazette doesn’t play enough defense for Emery. He gave away the ball for the third and then didn’t track back at all.

    2. if we play auba and laca up top together, arsenal would have to switch to a 3-5-2. arsenal neeeeeed 3 center mids. likewise, it would suit both bellerin and kolasinac as they’re both better suited as center backs than fullbacks. not a bad idea but would the new boss go for that? it would make the idea of sending chambers on loan look foolish; arsenal might miss the depth he would provide in case of an injury.

  6. you said you have watford as a relegation team but they will finish in the top half of the table. they’re too good and too well coached.

  7. The one thing that bothers me about these two games is how Emery setup his teams to have our weaknesses tested.

    Against City we looked to play out from the back vs the best pressers (we are terrible passers). Against Chelsea we played a high line which literally played into Pedro and Morata’s strengths (we are slow at the back and bad one on one defenders).

    I had doubts about Emery but his naivety as how much work was needed to improve is starting to worry me (like Pep in his 1st season). I really hoped he would be more pragmatic and gradually ask more out of the team as the easy games came along.

      1. I won’t lie, I knew the more public/obvious shortcomings and brushed them off as ‘happenstance’ ie PSG v Barca, record v top managers etc.

        But when you brought up the fact that he went the whole season without an away win I really started to have my doubts. Then the 1st two games have me worried it might not work out this season and I’m not expecting top four anymore.

  8. Do you think Emery was playing for the draw? Wonder if this was his experiment to see if, when leading away vs. a top 4 challenger, we could sit back and defend and come away with a point. We know the result of the experiment now, obviously. But there is an argument to be made for going defensive in the second half. Points away against a rival would have been meaningful. I still think we are a team that needs to outscore to win, vs. out-defend. And as bad as our defense was, we can’t miss so many times from in the box. Auba, Mkhi and Iwobi had no excuses for failing to put it on goal for sitters.
    Agree with STEVEINSLC about Ozil. He hasn’t really shined for quite a while. A tough world cup, his late season injury and a slow start to this season. I’ve also defended him in the past but found myself begging for his substitution early on. I’m hoping he’s still getting back into form since his tumultuous summer, but I’m starting to fear he’s simply lost a step/time is catching up with him, and he’s struggling to adapt to the new system.

    1. Ozil would be devastating on a team like Juventus or any top team in Serie A where he could be allowed to drift up top and wait for the defense to get him the ball. Outside of his absurd salary, I wonder why a couple of Serie A teams aren’t coming in for him.

      Agreed, we may just be seeing the decline. Ozil’s been at the top level since he was about 17, that can wear on a player.

      1. Funny you should mention Juve. I watched the CR7 debut and thought he needed someone whose role is to solely supply him with better chances. I hope Ronnie puts in a word to the Juve execs to come and get him

        1. Ronaldo was furious when Ozil was first sold from Real. He knew who was feeding him the ball. It’d be win-win for both players.

          1. Unfortunately, I think we’re stuck with Ozil. I wouldn’t want to think he’d want to take too much of a pay cut, so I doubt Juve could afford him this window, having just bought CR7. Maybe PSG could, or Barca as a replacement for Iniesta.

      2. I’ve always laughed off the “body language” criticisms, but it goes beyond that now. Doesn’t seem to have the spark.
        Emery is in a number 10 pickle it seems. Play an underperforming, but 300k+ guy, or give time to Ramsey, who appears unlikely to stay next season.

        1. Personally, I’m in the “drop Ozil” mindset – not permanently but certainly for a few games to send the message that hard work is the minimum requirement. I would also consider relegating Ramsey to a bit role this season. Might as well play the youngsters, that’s my thought.

          1. Gents,
            With respect, too many “Monday morning quarterback” conclusions being drawn after just two matches of a new season with a new manager, especially as those two matches are two of the hardest games we’ll face all season.

            Of course there’s nothing wrong with having opinions about what Emery should do differently, I just think at this point our performances over the last 2 games should factor very little in any assessment of what *needs* to be done. Even if Emery carries on in much the same way we’ve seen for the foreseeable future, with little to no changes in approach, personnel, or formation, I expect we’ll improve markedly over the next 8 winnable games.

            The one thing after these 2 games I would like to see him change is to switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 (this relates to Ozil and Ramsey) but that’s something I’ve been banging on about for a long, long while (see my other comment below for my justification).

  9. Is there anything to be read into the fact that your By the Numbers is now on Arsenal Review rather than Arseblog? If you’re getting paid (more) for the content now, I’m happy for you.

    1. Nothing to be read into anything. I am still friends with Andrew and their new writer, Scott, used to write here and is also a friend. The Arsenal Review is trying to start a fan-generated content site, similar to AFTV but without the sprunts, and asked me to be part of the team. I love the concept and wanted to put my (tiny) weight behind it. That’s all!

  10. Yay, 4th place – get in!
    I’d be v happy with that and a run in the cups.
    Don’t understand what we need to fix to sort the defence – as you said, stop the full backs going forward, and it significantly cuts our offensive threat, , but letting them do so leaves our (slow, somnambulant) centre backs more exposed than they should be.
    Is Torreira the answer (despite not tracking Alonso for #3) or a back 3?

  11. I always love a good bit of early season overreaction. When will the #WengerIn banners start flying? 😀 : D

  12. Agree with Doc that much of the above feels like an overreaction, or at least a too hasty reaction. But here’s a question that does seem to me to be important going forward:

    Is it a coincidence that even though two different players–Ramsey and Ozil–played as the #10 in the last two games, in both cases that player struggled significantly to get many touches on the ball (both then being subbed off relatively early in the 2nd half)??????

    I don’t think so.

    Ozil gets routinely lambasted for “disappearing” in games, but he very, very rarely has as few touches as he did against Chelsea, and Ramsey’s supposed to be his stylistic opposite–all high energy running, and tackling, and pressing, and getting into the final 3rd, etc–but was just as comprehensively denied the ball against Man City.

    I think the best explanation–or at least significant part of an explanation–is that at the highest level of European football, 4-3-3 is making 4-2-3-1, if not obsolete, at least problematic.
    1. In both cases we were playing Emery’s preferred 4-2-3-1, with a dedicated number 10 playing just off the CF, pretty high up the pitch.
    2. Both City and Chelsea played 4-3-3–which effectively allows you to play 2 vs 3 in the midfield engine room.
    3. Both of our opponents pressed high in order to win the ball back quickly and dominate possession.
    4. Both have a lot of quality on the ball allowing them to play large stretches of the match in Arsenal’s half and starving our forward players–especially the CF and 10– of the ball.

    Against most of the smaller teams coming up, I think the 4-2-3-1 still works fine.
    But, basically, against teams that (a) have a great high press, and (b) have significant quality (roughly greater than or equal to our own) in possession, I think playing the 4-2-3-1, if our opponents play 4-3-3, will leave us at a disadvantage that will always be very difficult to overcome.

    This isn’t rocket science and it’s not that new: the advantages of the Barca-style midfield 4-3-3 over a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 is something that Johan Cruyff argued for ages ago. But it does seem that it’s becoming even more true in recent years, compared to, say, 10-15 years ago when variations of 4-2-3-1 and 4-5-1 were first in vogue in England.

    Interestingly, one disadvantage of the 4-3-3 is that you sacrifice your width for greater central midfield security, and against Chelsea, at least, we did have a period of considerable success on the flanks with overloads against their fullbacks. So maybe Emery will make his 4-2-3-1 work, even against the best teams in the league. But right now I think it’s hurting us more than it’s helping, particularly with respect to our most creative players seeing the ball at number 10. Doesn’t mean you have to drop those players, just that you have to move them into a midfield or attacking trio.

    All this to say, I agree with those calling for a midfield trio of Ramsey, Guendouzi, and Torreira. I’d then play Ozil, Auba (or Laca) at CF (probably Auba), and one other (Miki, Iwobi, or Laca), as a flexible front three. If we dominate the middle of the park, that front three will see more of the ball in more dangerous parts of the pitch, and have the quality to do damage to the opposition on a more regular basis.

    1. Well reasoned post, I enjoyed that.

      I would also just add that it’s fun to analyze systems and formations but after just two games it’s really hard to definitively say what works and what doesn’t work. The biggest modifiable thing that I see is just the players and the manager getting used to each other and learning how to play this new system at a high level. This is not new or insightful and may be a tad boring but it’s the elephant in the room that supersedes results right now. The other thing that’s also boring but hugely important is that football is the beautiful game in part because the finishing fairy is so capricious and you can twist yourself into a pretzel but the game is still largely decided by small moments of fortune. On another day, that same game we just played ends up 2-1 to us or 3-0 to us even.

  13. Two games in…

    Naive tactics.

    Ozil underperforming.

    Recent transfer signings riding the pine for whatever mysterious reason.

    Unknown what is our best lineup.

    Ramsey hurt once already. Down to just one healthy left back.

    Defence a shambles.

    Are we sure Arsene Wenger isn’t still the manager? Seems like I’m in a time warp and it’s August 2017.

  14. All games are winnable…then you draw if you can’t….see the invincible, it can be done, ask Wenger.

  15. Doc and Pfo, my esteemed bros…
    you say it’s too early to form conclusions — and then proceed to provide them yourself. In detail. Come on, guys. Chill. We are fans. Monday morning quarterbacking is what fans do. It’s what YOU just did 🙂

    And I havent heard anyone calling for Emery’s head (now that would be an overreaction), but we have plenty of information to go on from the games played. We don’t need 7 or 10 games to tell us that Guandouzi is ready now, and is already our first choice deep-lying conductor/orchestrator, and tick-tock of the team in a way that provides hints and glimpses of early Cesc.

    Or that Hector Bellerin is wonderful going forward, but STILL poor defensively. Or that Xhaka has molasses in his legs and in his head. Or that Ozil continues generally to fail to impose himself on big games (the thrilling exceptions, ironically, being when we gave Chelsea a shoeing at the Emirates 2 years ago, and in the FA Cup final against them in 2017).

    I do think that players like Sokratis, Torreira and Licht need more time for accurate assessment, although (a few niggles apart), Im fine with all of them so far. It is the known quantities. Too many look the same, but Iwobi looks readier for the challenge. Yes Doc, Auba will have better days in front of goal. But we’re entitled to be narked that neither has fired although presented with opportunities.

    Laca takes his chance with City 1-0 ahead, and we possibly get something out of that game. Ditto Auba against Chelsea. We have zero points from 2 games, and that’s not inconsequential, whatever the quality of the opposition.

    One of the ways in which we we hope Emery’s Arsenal would be better than Arsene’s Arsenal, is defensive organisation. Im not a football coach but Im going to ding him for letting his team get caught out — 2 games in a row against Chelsea — by a lobbed pass over a static high line. Did he work with Bellerin on closing down passes from the flanks? Doesn’t like like it, does it? Medny and Hazard did him in identical fashion, in successive games.

    And we should probably be cautious about counting our chickens against the less strong teams. They have video. They’re going to overlap against Bellerin. And park a fast striker on the shoulder of our last CB. Emery looks decisive and unafraid of tough decisions. Im hoping that he he’ll have much success in what’s hopefully a friendlier run of games.

    1. 1. I acknowledged it was an exception to the general advice I was giving (not to draw too many conclusions this early).
      2. And I also pointed out it’s a thought I’ve had for a long time, not just based on these last 2 games.
      3. I’m not saying to anyone “how dare you for Monday Morning QBing!” I’m just saying I don’t think we’re going to get a lot of accurate conclusions from such a small sample size.
      4. But there’s nothing contradictory or hypocritical about explicitly making an exception to one’s general rule, and that’s what I’ve done when discussing 4-3-3 vs. 4-2-3-1. And I’ve given my reasons for that conclusion, but I’m happy to be proved wrong. As I said above, it may be that Emery get’s his 4-2-3-1 to work swimmingly.

  16. “Arsenal lost to Chelsea 3-2 and I think we can firmly state that this one is on Unai Emery. It’s popular to blame the players and we did see some problems with the personnel in this match.”


    This makes no sense. You said we can “firmly” blame Emery for the result, but then outline a number of reasons why some of it is down to personnel…which turns “firmly” into “mushly.”

    Of course, it is down to Emery in terms of how we play, but your criticism of him is pretty much Fat Sam Allardyce style. It’s not “popular” to blame the players, it’s “popular” to do what “popular” British pundits do and call Emery “stupid.” The minority is balance. Sorry, but that’s “firmly” true. Your comment is reactionary. Emery is trying things out. We’ve just played one of the best teams in Europe, and one of the best teams in the league. Losses to them, considering how we’ve played and finished in the last decade, should not result in dismissals of the Emery regime eight weeks in.

    I guess I just don’t quite understand the value of saying the loss is “on Emery.” Yeah. Duh. Or, duh. It’s on the fact that he’s in phase 0.1 of a rebuild that’s going to take longer than two games.

    1. I’m much more sympathetic to criticism of Emery when it’s issued in the context of what he has at his disposal, how long he’s been at it, and how long he might need to get the players on board. I also wonder why this post doesn’t contextualize the result in terms of whether you can blame Emery for Aubameyang’s miss, Mkhitaryan’s miss, and Iwobi’s miss, all of which were sitters, and which would have resulted in a win. Instead the impulse here is to blame the result on second half decisions, the reasons for which (here) are left unexplained, and instead manifest in a series of unanswered questions. If you can’t answer them, I’d suggest not jumping on the stupid bandwagon.

      1. Sorry, Tim. I’m going to start drinking again. (see my reply to joshuad below) You’re a good guy, and I enjoy your posts a great deal, even the “I know you’re going to hate on me for this” ones!

  17. pfo, i agree with you concerning three center mids. the successful teams that play with two center mids are counter-attacking teams; teams like atletico madrid or leicester city when they won the bpl. if you want to control the game, you need three center mids.

    the one thing i’d like to add to your point is to defend mesut ozil. first, mesut defended like mad for the team. it’s not typical for him so he’ll need some time to adapt to the load demand the new strategy requires. second, he remained central most of the game where he normally drifts to find space. this is something that i’ve wanted him to do more for years but he never did. it was more significant when giroud was still at the club as the big man likes to have someone to play with. we saw that at montpellier with belhanda, france with griezmann and even now with chelsea and hazard. giroud likes having that playmaker that stays connected and those players seem to like playing behind the big man. ozil, however, likes to drift between the lines so for emery to seemingly direct him to play more central may also be a learning curve for mesut. i don’t know, that’s just something i noticed coupled with something i made up. we’ll have to wait and see.

      1. yeah, I also noticed that Mesut worked a ton to defend from the front, just as Ramsey did the week before. indeed, I wonder if him staying central was more about what Emery wanted to do when we didn’t have the ball than when we did (i.e. he put so much effort into trying to press the CB’s and/or block passes to Jorginho, that he wasn’t able to drop deep and wide as much as usual).
        overall, I guess the (provisional) conclusion is: I think it’s going to take a while for Emery to get us playing as a unit in such a way that whoever’s playing at number 10 is able to do the job that Emery wants (high pressing) without negating that player’s effectiveness on the ball. I just worry that 4-3-3 is a better formation for Emery’s own values (protagonism, possession, pressing), and for our current squad, but that he’s too wedded to the 4-2-3-1. But time will tell…

  18. doc, in your reply higher up, you declared that you have to play with a high line if your team presses. that’s only half the truth. the other half is there’s always an exception to every rule. that exception is the situation must always dictates your actions. this goes back to a discussion we had a few months back about the difference between strategy and tactics.

    a refresher, strategy is the plan for how the team plays and that’s done by management. tactics is the execution of the plan and it’s done by the players on the field. what’s the major difference? the situation. a coach can’t possibly predict every situation when they’re planning so players must be able to think and make decisions based on what’s happening in real time. the situation always dictates your actions.

    back to your statement, we all know that a team has to keep a high line when you press but when there’s no pressure on the ball, your back line has to drop. this is what arsenal failed to do on far too many occasions on saturday. this is why arsenal fans were disappointed. chelsea weren’t very good but they still beat arsenal. why? the suicidal high line.

    you never let an attacking player get behind you. this is what happened on both the chelsea early goals. mhki let alonso get behind him for the first goal. arsenal’s approach led to mustafi being isolated 1v1 with a striker, a situation most central defenders are almost always going to lose, especially against someone as talented as morata.

    1. Morata maybe talented but if there’s an attacking player on any of the top clubs in the PL who shouldn’t scare the daylights out of you at the half way line with 50 yards of green grass to work with , it’s Morata.

      When you bring four attacking players to press the keeper, two CB’s, a dropping midfielder or two, then you kinda have to bring your entire back line in around the half way line or the entire high press misses the point.

      You either allow Emery experiment and try to find out who in his squad is capable of playing in his system with an option to bring new players in and let Wenger era players go, or you tell him “ make do with what you got because we’re not gonna go the Liverpool route” – meaning , we don’t have a four year plan to win the PL and CL but rather we just want to sneak back into the CL and that’s the heights of our aspirations.

      We can only assume what was said and promised at the time Emery was being hired, since most of what comes out of the club these days is a bunch of self serving PR bs , but if Emery was promised free reign to build the squad in his image, then I don’t mind him testing the players’ capabilities to find out who can cut it in his system and who can’t.

      Just remember this, he might’ve watched tapes of Arsenal players before his job interview, but what he certainly didn’t see was how they had been coached and prepped for games.
      He can’t very well go around the Arsenal blogosphere to get everyone’s input on who can cut it and who can’t.
      He’s got to find out for himself.

      Also , anyone picking Arsenal for the top four this season sets themselves up for disappointment.

      Both Pep and Klopp are on record that you need at least a half to a full season to get to know your players before you can render any meaningful judgment.

      Emery’s had a few months.

    2. If you want to be as defensively secure as possible, you give up a lot in an attacking sense and play like Mourinho’s man united last season. We saw how that worked out for them even though statistically they were the luckiest team in terms of scoring and conceding goals. Mou’s windfall from playing a whole season like the most expensive Wimbledon ever assembled was getting into a row with his best player, finishing a distant second, and putting some of the least watchable product on the pitch among the top clubs anywhere in Europe. I don’t think anyone wants that to be Arsenal.

      The wingbacks (I still can’t call them fullbacks, sorry) are some of the most positionally interesting pieces in football because there is so much you can do with them. Keeping them in your own half and focusing on covering may be defensively sound but it is 20th century tactics. What Emery is trying to do with Bellerin is to coach him into a genuine two way player. That means he is going to be upfield and ahead of the ball, a lot, and that will both result in him setting up fantastic chances (as he did), and conceding the space behind him (as he did). You can’t have it both ways because he can’t be in two places at once, rather, you WILL have it both ways because he will both contribute hugely in attack and leave gaps that other teams will try to exploit. That is modern football and it happens at every club. We exploited spaces behind Mendy just as they did behind Bellerin. The interesting part is how you cover that space, who covers it and when. That’s the part the team is still learning. For the Chelsea opener, Mkhitaryan was slow to see the run Alonso would be making into that space, and then Sokratis was slow to see Pedro’s run behind him. That kind of stuff is what happens when a team is not cohesive in how it covers each others’ tracks. It will improve.

      1. Great point about Bellerin being unable to be back and forward at once. And indeed, his attacking /overlapping combos with Mkhi were superb.

        But while he’s had knocks against him for being out of position for the first goal, much of the dissatisfaction with him is about the poor quality of his defending in his own box. I’m stunned that after all these years he still seems to be learning the rudiments of pass and shot blocking. He has this half committed way of closing down and going into challenges.

        And he still can’t cross consistently properly.

        1. CORR: Chelsea didnt score from the ball over the top in the Dublin friendly… Rudiger did from a corner by Cesc. But they nearly did, twice. Once from a wrong offside call.

          1. (aaaand this comment is mis-placed. Should be below my response to Coach, below 👇🏽)

        2. Eh. We have bigger problems than Hector’s 1v1 chops. That will improve when he’s not left on an island time after time.

    3. I like where you’re going with this… if I may offer further language to provide even more football specific context. Instead of “strategy”, we could use “style of play”. Style of play is universal while strategy is contextual and based on position, moment, speed, direction.

      For example, there are multiple ways to “press high”. So the style of play would be to “press high” while the strategy on how to complete the specific football action of pressing, which is part of the team task of disrupting the build-up, which is part of the team function of defending, would be based on position, moment, speed direction.

      “Tactics” is a players game insight. It is their ability to Communicate, Decide, Execute Decision within the context of the game they are playing in and the style of play the coach is implementing, again based on position, moment, speed, direction.

      Your statement that “situation must always dictate your actions” and “players must be able to think and make decisions based on what is happening in real time” (BRAVO!!) would easily fall into this spectrum.

      A player communicates with the ball, their teammates, the opposition and based on their individual game insight, decides how to execute their individual task within the team task within the team function all based on position, moment, speed, direction.

      So we say “suicidal high line” with no context, when a more accurate statement might be “We failed in disrupting the opposition build-up (team task) by not adequately stopping the long pass completed by xyz (individual task). Our team then failed in preventing the goal (team task) as our #4 and #5 were unable to track the runs of their #9 and #7 (individual task) which led to the opponents scoring a goal (team task).”

      I believe using football specific and contextual language makes analyzing games much easier and more clear for everyone. In my professional life, it helps provide my players and staff with a common starting point from which to discuss the game which helps remove confusion and makes discussions easier and more concise.

      1. Chelsea knocked a ball over our high line — just like that — in the preseason friendly. And just like in the preseason friendly, goal. Conceding a goal like that last Saturday was a coaching fail. IMHO. We don’t need to sound like a wordy faux analyst to communicate that. Im loath to criticise a guy in an area in which he possesses far more expertise than I do, but Im going to say that the goal should have been anticipated, and preventable. It was also clear what Pedro was trying to do.

        If you have time, watch the season preview on arsenal.com from the excellent Adrian Clarke. He address that issue very well.

        1. Thanks for the reply, Claudeivan! I appreciate the opportunity to expand on your thoughts.

          Indeed… the simplistic view is that Chelsea “knocked a ball over our high line”. But why were they able to? Where did the breakdown occur? How did the breakdown occur? What needs to be done to correct it?

          It’s quite easy to notice an error and give it a label (suicidal high line), much more difficult to analyze, reflect and gain deeper understanding of the game. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that not part of the beauty of this forum? That we have a platform to use to expand our understanding?

          Yes, my reply is wordy and these are not the musings of a “faux analyst”, but rather someone attempting to expand your view of the game and how to discuss it on a deeper level. Surface level views are safe and easy to repeat. I would hope the aim is to go beyond that and start to speak about the game in objective and contextual terms!

  19. bun, you seem a bit salty these days. this is where arsenal fans come and talk about arsenal. i know i can’t talk to most of my friends about arsenal. my wife, bless here heart, listens to me ramble from time to time but she could care less about arsenal. she simply tolerates because i think she actually likes me. besides, it’s better than me being a womanizer, an alcoholic, or abusive.

    as for the comments on torreira on the previous thread. i’m simply stating my opinion. if you go back, i was saying these things about him before he ever suited up for arsenal and his two cameos have done little to change my mind. as a refresher, i’ve never said i thought he was a bad player. i simply said i didn’t think he was suited to the premier league. he’s small and seems to have to be at 100% just to keep up with his contemporaries doing routine center mid stuff. he can’t sustain that. he got easily rolled by ross barkley, twice. hazard had his way with him. alonso ghosted past him for the game-winner because he couldn’t keep up.

    there have been plenty of good players that didn’t quite make an impact in the premier league. veròn, shcevchenko, falcao, pique, jerome boateng, iago aspas, etc. all great players that essentially flopped in england. i hope torreira’s not. we’ll see. by the way, i do offer the “we’ll see” because i respect the fact that i don’t know everything. i might be wrong and that’s okay. i’m not here to be right, i’m here to talk about this beautiful team of ours.

    1. I’m cranky these days. I just need to start drinking again and everything will be fine.

  20. I love how this is a reversal of the earlier idea of fans will forgive much if you just win the big games.

    I’m all for giving Emery time. I don’t think ‘tactics’ work the way we think they do, because players aren’t remote controlled and one of the great things about football is that it is a continuously flowing game (Yes I know the ball is out a third of the time) It’s early days.

    I don’t know why people are so quick to assume what judgments Emery’s made about Ramsey or Ozil. Maybe it’s as simple as physio/medical recommendations. We’ve worked hard to upgrade that side of things and have got a long season ahead involving pressing (it seems)

    Taking them off, or not playing them from the start will, as usual, be a combination of factors instead of just some messaging to players, board or fans.

    It’s 2 games in. We’ve made stupid mistakes in defense. We’ve missed some chances in attack. And we played two very tough opponents. I think before we really know what Emery and his players are doing, it will take a good couple of months at least.

    We should make top 4 with the squad we have. 36 league games left. Long season ahead. For better or for worse (hopefully better)

    1. Some of this stuff is coming from the mad fringes of Twitter, as it usually does, and gains steam because a football fan’s natural anxiety about his team is so easy to exploit. There are people out there who exist to throw down hot takes that will be picked up by others; it makes them feel good or important somehow. Twitter is the home base for this lunatic fringe where their voice is proportionally far, far greater than it would be in any balanced forum.

      1. In fact, bad ideas are preferentially circulated on twitter because people with thousands of followers will re-tweet them, if nothing else, to highlight how bad the idea is. But with this exposure the idea becomes far bigger in the public eye and consequently far more important than it really is when taken on its own merit. Everyone knows you shouldn’t feed trolls but we can’t help ourselves.

      2. It’s not just twitter though. Journalists are pushing this idea of Ozil or Ramsey’s game time as evidence that they are being asked to work harder and it is something they are reluctant to do. Or that they are ‘shocked’ by not starting or being subbed off. Well, at least John Cross has done that. I think James Olley had something about Ramsey too linking his contract with this. I suppose you could argue they are the momma trolls feeding the baby trolls regurgitated chewed up mush, and I wouldn’t disagree.

        (Yes trolls are birds in this analogy of the twitterati tweety tweeting that they tout tey taw a puddycat)

        1. Pretty sure the tabloid jounalists get their best ideas from their twitter accounts and blogs. It’s so much easier to crowdsource than think of your own ideas, plus if it’s already kind of out there then amplifying an idea is so much easier than trying to see if something has traction by printing it first.

  21. My concern is, we still don’t have the center backs to be good enough to make top 4. Yes our lads missed some sitters yesterday, but how many saves did Petre Cech have to make? I don’t know whether tactics can help, if you don’t have the players.

    1. Defending is a team sport, and they’re learning to do it together for the first time with this system. Sokratis and the others are not world beaters but they’re all right, certainly not much worse individually than Rudiger and David Luiz, or Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling. As I see it, the first problem is keeping the ball longer than we did (Chelsea had 69% possession, Man City had 55%), the second is cohesion in covering assignments and shifting as a unit, the third is closing down passing lanes, and winning duels comes after all of that. Still important, no doubt, just not as important as the other stuff in my book.

  22. “Eh. We have bigger problems than Hector’s 1v1 chops. That will improve when he’s not left on an island time after time.”

    Doc, on Bellerin’s defending.

    On the basis that he cant be in 2 places at once, let’s discount the goal scored by Pedro, when Mkhi failed to cover for an out of position Bellerin….

    3 out of 5 league goals that we’ve conceded came from his side of the defence. Pedro’s would make it 4 if we want to be harsh, but let’s not be. In none of the 3 goals was he “left on an island.” He was in position, ostensibly covering the danger, but was easily bypassed. As he was, time and again, by Hudson-Odoi in the friendly against Chelsea in Dublin (the game that led to the debate on this blog about his vegan diet, which i dont believe affects his play).

    Bellerin is in his 3rd season as a member of Arsenal’s first XI, and while he can be excellent in attack, he is still a poor defender. Hoping that “things will improve” is an act of faith at this point. Daintily, tentatively dangling a leg in the general vicinity of a dangerous pass is not defending.

    Left up to me, Lichtsteiner would start the next game at RB and Hector would be on the bench. But Licht probably won’t, because we need him to cover both full-back positions with AMN and Kolasinc out, and Monreal making his way back.

  23. a few points to jot down lest I forget
    1) this is my go to site for the best arsenal analysis.
    2) Not just for the wonderful articles written here but for the fabulous comments people put up. In truth for most post match articles I just breeze through the main article and read the comments section diligently. Such a sane, indepth and constructive space.
    3) Sven has found us a gem in Torreira and Guendozi but i firmly believe he fucked up in the defense with the acquisition of Sokratis. Guess the deal was already in place before Emery came into the picture because I cannot for the love of God think Uni recommended him. Just does not suit his system to be honest.. more like a Allardyce player if you ask me.

  24. I did not watch the game but I will comment as I saw the third goal and I have a few comments to add. Lacazette lost the ball, Hazard picked it up, there was a pause from Hazard contemplating what he had to do and he simply dribbled past his marker, cut back the ball and Alonso stabbed the ball in. That was Chelsea’s 3rd goal and I summarised this my way.

    We are not yet cohesive as a team. We had 4 clear chances in the first half similar to the third Chelsea goal. We failed to score and if we were more clinical the game will have been beyond Chelsea’s reach. Perhaps this team needs luck, or they need more games.

    When Giroud was our striker, he was not very mobile. Now we have more mobile strikers and they should have scored 2 of the chances created. If we had taken those chances and turned them into goals then we would have made up for our defensive failings and both games in which we earned no points might have ended as a 4 point haul. This analysis is in hindsight, but in reality we were in the game, we made mistakes which were punished, but we explored their weaknesses and punished them less.

    Laying the blame at the feet of the coach, in my opinion, is weak. Up until Lacazette’s mistake, we managed the game and we lost the game in the first half by not capitalizing on the chances we created.

    Another key issue is the personnel, We don’t have the right man to lead the press. This is where I want to engage in Coach’s game speak. Pardon my errors if I am incorrect, but Ozil’s style has been dissected, Ramsey’s style has been evaluated but they simply do not fit the actions of centrally influencing the game, and that is why we could not make any difference when Ramsey came on against a midfield that had Jorginho and Kovacic, better midfielders who understood what they had to do.

    So the missing link in our team right now is the #10. Not the wingers or wide forwards which we don’t have, but a man who can close down players, move into space to receive the ball, drop back to support the pivot, spread the ball intelligently and dribble out of tight positions when under pressure centrally.

    This is what a player with flair would do and it is the skill set that a #10 to fit our current system should have. Ozil, Ramsey and Mhkitaryan could play this role but they are lacking in several qualities mentioned which would set the hearts of their teammates at ease when the ball is passed to them. Mhkitaryan is a better dribbler but he is slow, Ramsey is fast but he cannot withstand the pressure, and when he drops back he does not close down players. Ozil proved better defensively against City, but he does not close down players in an effective manner, so he is better off not doing it at all.

    Torreira has been fair but he’s yet to exhibit the level of proactive defending he is capable of, maybe he is yet to acclimatize but the best way to get him up to speed would be for him to start a game.

    1. i agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the #10 which is why i’ve always lobbied for iwobi to be there. he fits that mold better than any other arsenal player.

    2. That sounds like a Luca Modric youre describing there. There are not many of his type. Im a big fan of Mesut’s, but it’s notable that Modric has thrived in a demanding team like Real, and he has not.

      Josh, when Iwobi leans to shoot more clinically, he’ll be some player. Interesting call there

  25. sorry i missed most of yesterday but i read all the posts.

    tom, i don’t see how you can summarily dismiss morata. sure, he had a bad season last year but it doesn’t minimize his quality. bottom line, any striker is going to relish being in a 1v1 situation with a central defender like mustafi when he has no help. fullbacks and central defenders who have experience as outside backs like gallas, vermaelen, koscielny, etc. might offer a different proposition but, as a striker, i would be disappointed if i didn’t score in that situation.

    doc, like i said earlier, you’re only telling half the story. we all understand that the back line has to compress the field if your approach is to press. however, if the press is momentarily defeated (there is no active pressure on the ball) you can no longer maintain a high line and still be balanced; the defensive line must drop or you’re going to be continually exposed. understand, i’m not suggesting a change in defensive strategy (becoming more conservative defensively) but a transient switch in approach due to a momentary failure of the effectiveness of the press. if you keep a high line when there’s no pressure on the ball and the opponent has runners, they’re going to play the ball behind your backline. they’d be foolish not to. and like tim alluded to in the thread, the pass doesn’t have to be that good. defenders can not under any circumstance allow attacking players to receive the ball behind their defensive line. it’s bad soccer and many gooners are upset because this is not complicated; it doesn’t require a dramatic change in strategy.

    also, hector doesn’t have to be either attacking or defending. personally, he’s a defender for me and that’s his first priority but i’m not his coach. hector needs to find better balance or, to quote thierry henry, he needs to do what the game asks. that simplifies the hector conundrum. he needs to recognize three phases: we have the ball, we might lose the ball, we’ve lost the ball and let those phases dictate his actions. also, if the ball is on the left side of the pitch, arsenal don’t need hector high. he can always transition as the ball moves more central.

    coach, i appreciate your input. however, i’m going to stick with strategy as opposed to “style of play”. strategy is very objective where style of play is not. my main point was to clearly show the difference between tactics and strategy. many people misuse the word tactics, confusing it with strategy, while others think tactics and strategy mean the same thing. i like everything else you said.

    shard, i agree with your point that defenders are not “remote controlled”. they need to recognize situations. this is what separates a talented player, vermaelen, from a good player, gallas. in my opinion, vermaelen is the most talented defender arsenal have ever had but, like xhaka, he didn’t appear very smart which is why he failed at arsenal. in fairness, wenger didn’t do him any favors by strapping that captain’s band on his arm. he needed to be focused on his game, not trying to lead a team.

    1. Morata has what Giroud doesn’t. A bit of speed. And he’s a big lad. That’s why he started. Doc isn’t wrong about the press being the reason why you have a high line, but if you have a classic CF running the channels (a Diego Costa, a Cavani, an Adebayor in his prime), you’re going to get murdered by counters started by balls over the top. Because they have the foot speed to outrun or match even fast defenders, and the upper body strength to outmuscle them in one-on-ones. It wasn’t a rocket science tactic, but Sarri nailed it. And while it’s true that he brought one of the world’s best forwards off the bench, he also got his subs spot-on too.

      1. i’ve never said doc was wrong, only half right. we all know why a pressing team has to keep a high line. i’m talking about the dozen or so times in a game when your press is easily defeated. you can’t just pretend like the press is still effective. you have to respect the transient condition that exist, which is there is no effective press on the ball. that requires your back line to, momentarily, drop.

  26. alright you animals, here’s some red meat. maybe someone’s suggested it before and if so, accept my preemptive apology. i don’t get to read all of your posts every day.

    how about a 4-3-1-2? this formation presents little strategic change to the back line. arsenal would have the 3 center mids we clearly need. we could put ramsey deeper in the formation in that 3, where he’s at his best. we could put ozil as the one, where he get’s to drift and be at his best but the team is still structurally sound. lastly, we get to play auba and lacazette together where they’re likely to be at their best. they grew up playing in a 4-4-2, just like everyone else did, so they know how to defend as a two-striker set-up.

    considering the talent arsenal has available, i believe this formation presents the most effective utilization of arsenal’s best players. i don’t know everything so you guys, in typical 7am fashion, show me how this is dumb because of something i forgot to consider.

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