Twenty-four hours into the job and Unai Emery made his first major decision yesterday: get the driver to park closer to the door at London Colney.
Tactics Tim struggled through the Aston Villa door, laden with coffees, files and notepads. There were no such problems for new Arsenal head coach; it was all handled slickly over the past twenty-four hours or so. Henry Winter approved of how it was handled and that’s all Ivan needs.
He’s already down to business. A tour of the facilities preceded talks about talks about talks; Ivan talks a good game, Emery needs to walk one. Assessing the squad started for the interview, now he is down to business with the full data available. Will any of that change his mind?
It’s hard to see how. According to Gazidis, the Spaniard’s presentation contained assessments of the squad. Not the blithe bar-room stuff we engage in, but proper backed by the data type stuff. It’s pointed out how Emery promoted youth to the first team at Valencia and Sevilla which is something Arsenal valued when assessing him. More importantly, he kept them competitive while selling the best players; ‘competitive’ at their level, e.g. third place in Spain’s two-horse race.
That latter part chimes with how the club is set to work from now on. Patience is a virtue of the past manager and under-performers won’t find any favour with Emery. Over-achievers will find themselves out as well, funding future purchases.
It worked well for Emery at Sevilla under Monchi; Mislintat and Sanllehi must equal the feted director of football’s record of success. Not trying to emulate the methodology though. The man himself observed it works in one place and one place only; everywhere else finds their own variation which suits culture, business models, etc.
Jack of all Trades, Masters of None
While they do their bit, Unai Emery must work with the materials at hand. The majority of the players will get a season to prove themselves, but some positions need filling immediately.
He met Laurent Crocked-slney yesterday, an immediate reminder of the new central defender required. The defensive side of the game is the first target. Emery won’t, unless transfer business dictates otherwise, be looking for new full-backs.
In Bellerin, Monreal, and Kolasinac he has the raw materials and players with enough pace to adapt to his pressing style. Curbing the right-back’s attacking instincts and transferring that energy into defensive work will pay dividends. Or that’s the theory. The defensive side of our game regressed in Wenger’s final seasons as the focus was on the attack.
Our back four needs work and strengthening; if we as onlookers know that, so too does a highly remunerated professional. Oh.
Does that mean the goalkeepers get one more season? Both are out of contract next summer with Cech likely to retire. Ospina will hope for a good World Cup to get some interest going in the transfer market which may force the club’s hand. Neither is consistent in their delivery from feet, peppering the touchlines on an irregular basis.
In the old days, a goalkeeper could get away with poor distribution so long as he was a half-decent shot-stopper, but in the Pep Guardiola era, ball-playing goalkeepers are a must. We may have to wait 12 months for a new one unless Sven knows of a 2.Bundesliga ‘keeper going cheap.
While the goalkeeping situation is important, we can ‘make do and mend’ next season. Because of Koscielny’s injury, we can’t at centre-back nor the central midfield area. Seri is being mentioned, but is he too similar to Ramsey in terms of being box-to-box?
Developing young players is a recurring theme in every piece on Emery. The players who may benefit aren’t just those mentioned – Maitland-Niles, Iwobi – but more Chambers, Holding and Mavropanos. All three have critics but all three also have potential to develop into decent centre-backs with focussed defensive coaching. The hope is that the discipline a pressing game requires will embrace positional and spatial awareness as well.
Football club staffing specialisms are yet to move into the defensive / offensive split that American Football treats as the norm. There’s no reason why not beyond no-one doing it consistently yet. Every club tinkers with it – we saw the benefit in 2006 with Keown coaching the defence – but until someone wins trophies with that split, football is too reactive for it to happen.
We’re a squad where it would pay immediate dividends. Certainly for the younger players before too many bad habits become ingrained in their game. With more teams demanding defending starts with the forwards, there’s no need to split out into different sets of players, just switching focus will be enough.
It’s a new era at Arsenal but one which doesn’t get going until pre-season training begins. That and the transfer window opening will ram home change has really happened.