On Learning Curves and The Best Pairings Over The Pitch

We head into the home straight this weekend: a week until proper football returns. None of this namby-pamby friendlies but getting down to the proper thud and blunder stuff.

It’s been a steep learning curve for Unai Emery. The squad returned in dribs and drabs, with the last bundles of joy back in training this week. Too soon for a full 90-minute runout against Lazio but in his own words, Xhaka, Torreira, and Monreal will “get some minutes”.

At that point, will we get an idea of how his preferred XI will line-up? Unlikely; both Ramsey and Kolasinac aren’t travelling to Sweden as precautionary measures.

There are public announcements of decisions already taken to come. I’m sure Unai Emery knows the best goalkeeper in his mind but is giving the players every chance to change it. After the Chelsea game, Petr Cech confirmed nobody has yet taken him to one side to tell him that he’s benched. “We still have games to play. Obviously, for every player you do your best, then the manager has his choice to make,” seems optimistic on his part.

Communication is a big issue and as with Leno, it’s something he must work on with the central defenders. There was one moment during the Chelsea game where he invited Sokratis to play the ball across an empty net so Cech could clear left-footed. The Greek opted for safety first and put the ball out for a corner instead.

Was his the right choice? It’s supposition but the less risky course of action. The understanding and confidence between the pair aren’t there yet to enable a centre-back to slide the ball across an unguarded goal to a goalkeeper takes time to build. Leno is in the same boat, although I believe he will be first-choice.

A Pair Is Better Than A Busted Flush

The defence is the area which continues to create doubts. It’s plural because, beyond left-back, I think there are questions hanging over each position. Hector Bellerin was left hopelessly exposed against Chelsea with neither Ozil or Mkhitaryan covering Hudson-Odoi or anyone overlapping.

That raised questions against the Spaniard when the real issue was further up the field. Maybe it’s pre-season and replicating the same intensity of performance we’ll see from next week onwards is tough. I’m assuming it is, but developing good habits now is the key to success.

Mind you, defining success is going to be very subjective. A trophy equates to success but is any improvement on last season a success? Where is the bar set for that?

Quite low, I should think. Returning to the top four ought to be the minimum target but aim low, and you miss badly. We’re not going to win the league and I don’t think anyone expects us to either. But if I look at Tottenham with their zero additions, Chelsea’s desperation for a goalscorer, and the disarray at Manchester United, at this moment in time, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t make the top four.

As the season unfolds, that view may change.

And we mustn’t forget either that for Unai Emery, it’s a steep learning curve. He’s got a new squad to get to grips with, working on minimising the errors and deficiencies. On top of that, getting up to speed on the Premier League for as much as new players must adapt, so too must the bosses and coaches.

These guys are at the top of their profession but we frequently hear players saying the intensity of the English game took them by surprise. It will be the same for coaches no matter how well prepared they are.

Are We There Yet?

As baptisms of fire go, the opening weekend meeting with Manchester City is right up there at the top of the list. Will Lacazette and Aubameyang start – yes, in my view. Let’s not forget, Unai Emery needs to see his squad in different formations as much as the first choice pairings. Injuries and suspensions wrecked previous campaigns and there’s no indication this one will be any different.

The places behind that pair will be filled more on form and who the opposition is than a name. There’s no Neymar at Arsenal; no-one with the clout to demand inclusion just because they cost a small nation’s GDP to sign. Emery has a team to manage from his squad rather than one man and ten others. It must be a relief for him.

Nine more sleeps to go, people. Get yourselves ready for the new season.

’til Tomorrow.

40 thoughts on “On Learning Curves and The Best Pairings Over The Pitch

  1. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    I agree YW, that setting the bar too low could equate to massive failure.

    Despite what’s going on at the Spuds, Man Ure and the Chavs, they have experience of top four finishes. Do we really look like pushing any of them out of that position? We are fighting for two places in that top four, as I believe Liverpool and Shitty are nailed on to finish inside that top four berth. Which leaves us competing with the aforementioned. I don’t see us usurping any of them currently squad vs squad over the course of the season.

    I’m also disappointed by the treatment Joel Campbell has received since returning from his holiday. They are freezing him out for the error’s of the previous regime. Let us not forget that match where the kid was easily our best out field player only to be hauled off by AW. He’s never really been given a chance. Which is strange when width is an issue in our play.

    The central defensive pairing and who is in front of them continues to be a conundrum that the manager must find a solution to. Whether a solution exists in the current squad is yet to be seen. But Guendouzi and AMN should start against Shitty in my opinion.

  2. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    It’s a Carry On film isn’t it YW?

  3. nikkogunners says:

    For me works.

    Ozil on the flase nine role (I’m thinking maybe i should switch him with Mkhitaryan …Auba and Lacazette in the wing Forwards role. Guendouzi goes in ahead of Xhaka, Mavropanos usurps Mustafi…and Leno for Cech…

    If Ramsey stays it is with Guendouzi gives up his space to Ramsey and Ramsey + Mkhitaryan play box to box around Torreira. …

  4. Michael says:

    Morning All

    HNDS….It is a Carry on film, but the clue!!! YW clues are right up there with the Times crossword, hence my incompetence.

    Based on last season’s performance, its the away games, that we need to improve on, and I suspect we will leak fewer goals, whether that is enough to get top 4 is anyones guess. It’s easy to assume that Chelsea and Utd have “problems” but until a ball is kicked we won’t have any idea. Invariably nothing looks like it appears to be, in football.

  5. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Learning curves and best pairings would be Joan Sims but Angela Douglas will do!

  6. MikeSA says:

    Carry on Cowboy?

    Bloody hell, there’s something going on here YW!

    I haven’t watched many movies in my life (and still don’t), so this recent trend is becoming quite unsettling. 🙂

    Anyhoooow, I’m looking forward to the Lazio game, less so the Citeh game.

    I think its a little too soon for us (even given a possible dearth of key personnel at Citeh for now).

    Even at home I suspect a draw would be a good result.

    I am definitely not a Ramsey fan, but at this stage I think many will concur that he really needs to sign now or be shown the door.

    Unfortunately I think this is something they learnt at Wenger’s knee, dragging to out till they have the upper hand.

    If Ramsey thinks he can and should get more, let him go and get it somewhere else, he’s a good player, but not exceptional, and certainly not irreplaceable.

    He’s clearly trying to either leverage an exceptional contract (which is fine, he’s entitled to do so), or wait until he can leverage the possible signing on fee from elsewhere into his pay packet (a la Ozil, which he’s also entitled to do), but that doesn’t mean the club as the employer should just bend over and allow him to have it all his own way.

    At this stage I’d tell him, sign (today), or agree to be sold (if there are any genuine takers), otherwise train with the juniors.

    The club cant continually allow itself to be fucked around like this (and yes, Ozil and Sanchez were both serious lessons that should have been taken on board).

    Personally, imo the “are we there yet” comment was arrogant and cuntflappery beyond belief. I would have bulleted him out the club right there and then.

  7. MikeSA says:

    Morning All

    HNDS….It is a Carry on film, but the clue!!!YW clues are right up there with the Times crossword, hence my incompetence.

    Based on last season’s performance, its the away games, that we need to improve on, and I suspect we will leak fewer goals, whether that is enough to get top 4 is anyones guess. It’s easy to assume that Chelsea and Utd have “problems” but until a ball is kicked we won’t have any idea. Invariably nothing looks like it appears to be, in football.

    If I recall she gets all that ambush and booby traps set up and ends up shooting the wrong guy?

    The connection?

    Sorry, I’m just chuffed I actually recognise the bloody thing.

  8. Ian says:

    Where’s Marshall P. Nutt when you need him!

  9. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    “There’s no Neymar at Arsenal; no-one with the clout to demand inclusion just because they cost a small nation’s GDP to sign. Emery has a team to manage from his squad rather than one man and ten others. It must be a relief for him.”

    If that’s the case YW let’s see how many times Ozil gets dropped this season when he’s playing like an absolute tool!?

    We already seen evidence he has no inclination to press or aid in assisting the full back in defensive duty’s. But I bet he won’t be dropped.

    I think you’ll find team Ozil did a great job in ensuring he will continue to demand inclusion whilst with our club.

  10. C says:

    Good stuff Yogi.

    I wonder if Sokaritis plays that ball to Leno knowing our new #1 IMHO is much more comfortable on the ball. With Ospina not looking likely to leave, would it be best to see what we can get for Cech and keep Ospina as #2?

    Defensively I will wait because we simply don’t know who sits infront of them which plays a part in covering them. For instance, Bellerin might not get help from his winger mate but if say Torriera and Guendouzi are the pivots, they will provide that cover as both like to sit and clean/sweep up ahead of the back 4.

  11. YW says:

    Neymar runs PSG, that’s the difference, HNDS. MO doesn’t have that clout at Arsenal.

  12. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    He seemed pretty undroppable to me over the last couple of season’s. And you can’t tell me he’s been playing out of his skin all that time or we didn’t have any suitable alternatives, YW?

  13. Silly Sausage says:

    Personally, I think the minimum target is to stop the downward trend and remain in the top 6.
    5th would be ok but I would be happily surprised if we end up in the top 4.

  14. Ras says:

    Bon après midi à tous. 38 degrees here in the Sud and rising. Evenings and nights have become unbearable. Sleep is a forgotten commodity.

    Very much looking forward to the new season to see how things unfold. I would like the Team to finish as high as possible in the Leaugue.

    if Ramsey won’t sign Da ring, sell. UMO his style of Play is not going to fit in totally. He requires way to many touches of the ball just to see what his options arecetc. Technically he’s not the best. If he thinks Barcelona , the Madrid clubs are going to come calling he’s deluded.

    He’s out again Injured. Another slight calf strain ? Bearing in mind his injury record how many Games can We expect from him.

    He’s had one stellar season in 10 years at Arsenal .

    Defence is a major concern. Montreal is 33, how long can he go on. As much as I like the character etc of Kolisinac I think we need better in that position. Defensively he’s not very good.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how Emery is going to manage his troops.

    I predict big seasons for ANM, Auba and Torreira.

  15. Bil says:

    Great post yogi

    It will be interesting to see how things will change this season. So far the preseason has not really given us much indication. Other then the second half of the PSG game the ultra high energy pressing and the increased tempo we had hoped for has not really been evident. Hopefully we will see something closer to the real starting line up in the last preseason game. It will also be interesting to see how we play against Man City. If we try to go toe to toe with them they might completely torch us with counter attacks. I certainly don’t want the Emery era to start with a heavy loss at home. I hope Emery shows more tactical pragmatism that Arsene.

  16. Bill says:

    I think there is a good chance that Spurs might struggle this season and hopefully Chelsea will also have a down season so if we play reasonably well I think there is a chance to reclaim a top 4 spot. I don’t think ManU will drop out of the top 3 but we have 4th place to aim for. I think we should also make a relatively deep run in the Europa league. Hopefully Emery’s struggles in the Champions league at PSG was a hiccup because he certainly demonstrated that he has the tactical nous to do well in knockout competitions during his Europa league runs at Sevilla.

  17. Bill says:

    I am not sure why anyone would think that our fullbacks are going to be getting more help from the wide forwards unless we sacrifice either Ozil or Mkhitaryan and start Welbeck. I don’t think Nacho gets any more help then Hector and yet Nacho often contributes width and some end product on the attacking end of the pitch and we don’t see Nacho struggling with pacey players on our left wing. No one likes to admit it but I think the real problem is Hector. I don’t expect him to be as good as Nacho on either end of the pitch but we need him to improve enough so at least he is not a significant liability. Fortunately this season we have another option with Lichtensteiner if the right side of our formation continues to be a defensive weak link.

  18. Bill says:


    It looks like Guendouzi has leapfrogged Maitland-Niles and Elneny on the depth chart. If the preseason is an accurate indication then Guendouzi will be probably be the defensive minded midfielder on the bench which leaves AMN and Elneny to fight for whatever minutes they can get.

    We definitely need a huge season from PEA and big season from Lacazette. I would like to see them play both in the starting lineup. Hopefully Torriera will live up to the expectations.

  19. jw1 says:

    Great read, thanks Yogi.
    Also made a mental note of that moment with Sokratis clearing instead of feeding cross-goal.
    His was the correct choice. Much rather concede a corner than risk an error there. There was a window to do as Cech expected– but the reaction time was so slim.

    I’ve long been a proponent of ‘sell Mustafi even at a loss’. But even he’s played pretty well (given it is friendlies). The issues will be at the either back. Though, feel Torreira will be the real solution in creating cohesion.


  20. Ras says:


    Hello BIll . Yes Guendozi has excellences and taken to Arsenal it seem without batting an eye lid.

    I have think that after 10 games ( presuming he’s in the Team) we’ll have a better idea of where he sits in the Team.

    There have been a number of times he’s been caught in possession with the ball. He’s managed to ” fashion ” a foul. Other Teams will be watching and noting his strengths

  21. Bill says:


    I agree that other teams will be watching Guendouzi and figure out his weaknesses. The same thing will happen with AMN and it has happened with almost every one of the U21 players that we have tried to integrate into the starting line up over the last 14 years. Hector, Iwobe and Le Coq are other current examples. They started really well but then the adrenaline surge wears off and the rest of the league figures out their weaknesses. Its been a recurring pattern for the entire Emirates era. You can’t really judge a players long term potential accurately based on the first few preseason games or even the first few months.

  22. Bill says:


    The same pattern of early overperformance happens with a lot of players on every team so its not just an Arsenal thing.

  23. C says:

    Don’t think too much should be made of Guendouzi being caught in possession because as Yogi rightly points out, he is learning and that will come with experience.

    Also, I am interested to see how the midfield actually shakes out because Torriera starts and based on his past, Emery likes both pivots to sit, clean up, press and play quick transition passes or maintain possession.

  24. C says:


    Just a thought, but doesn’t the opposition find weaknesses for everybody or are is it not just resticted to younger players…🤔

  25. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    The team tomorrow should show what Emry is thinking for a starting 11. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Guendozi, AMN and Xhaka start with Torriera coming on later in second half. Personally I’d rest Bellerin, played almost every match and has been in attendance for every single on of Emrys conditioning sessions.

    As I alluded to yesterday, a bit too much is being made of Chelsea game. We beat them, they has a strong team with a VERY experienced midfield of Cesc and Jorghinho and the backline they’ll probably start vs City with. We had Guendozi and ESR, and they both played quite well. Ozil got into game and looked dangerous and sharp. And if Auba had finished his chances we’d have been 3 up by half time so saying we could have been 3 down in 10mins is mute considering Cech is paid to you know, stop goals

  26. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Defense might be an issue… But as I said before, Emry has had 3 weeks of sessions with us to undo Wengers defensive work and implement a new pressing system. I feel bad for Emry as I feel a lot of “fans” will be frustrated we’ve not gone and signed world class defenders. I say December until we see how Emry actually wants us to play. My worry Is Xhaka having so little time to adjust to this new system, I would definitely consider a starting midfield of Torriera, Guendozi and ANM. As long as its not Elneny, I don’t see him staying past this season imo.

  27. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    Agree, notable example being Jack Wilshere. We started him correctly, coming in last 10 of matches and in cup games, then we sold Cesc and suddenly everyone decided he was an instant starter in Cescs place. Called up to England off the back of some good performances which imo, ruined him due to injuries and too many games for his age.

  28. Bill says:


    Just a thought, but doesn’t the opposition find weaknesses for everybody or are is it not just resticted to younger players…

    The difference is the players themselves and our team and the opposition already know the weaknesses of the more experienced players and have learned how to deal with them. The U21’s have never had their weaknesses exposed because they have never had to play against PL level players who know how to take advantage of them.

  29. C says:


    They learned our weaknesses under Arsene and the more experienced players style under Arsene and the way he wanted to play.

  30. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    I’d say more that it probably hampered their development as they’d have any natural flair coached out of them as the usual skills wouldn’t work vs prem teams so they opt for easy passes etc. Iwobi as an example, when he first came into team he was taking players on and beating players, as was Bellerin, now they seem to opt to get the ball stop, cut inside and pass. Hopefully changes under Emry…..

  31. consolsbob says:

    You are setting us up very nicely, YW. I feel an early drink at The George, or it’s replacement if Damon is still on the job.

  32. Bill says:


    It’s not just at Arsenal that the younger players often start out well and then struggle to replicate their early form so it’s not just an Arsene thing. If you have 2 players of the same age the one who has been test driven by another team for a couple years is much more likely to make it then someone who has been playing in your own academy. That is indisputable. Barca or Man City or any big team will buy a player that has been driven rather then giving someone from La Masia a chance.

  33. C says:


    Exactly and it didn’y help when you play in a style that values possession the way Arsene did (remeber his view on long range shots). The best thing about a high pressing style based on possession is that it encourages you to play and push instead of always playing it safe.

  34. C says:

    Sead out 8-10 weeks and Ramsey is hopeful of training next week

  35. nicky says:

    Much has been said about our limited prospects for next season in the EPL.
    Little has been proffered about our chances in the Europa.
    With the experience of the new blood, I feel we could do well. 😉

  36. C says:

    I wonder how many people realize that for as good as Liverpool were, they barely made top 4 last seasons.

  37. YW says:

    Dropped seven points in last four games, C. Klopp prioritised the UCL but made sure they have enough to stay in top four.

    Still finished 5 clear of Chelsea despite losing to them on the penultimate weekend of the season. Think they were pretty comfortable overall.

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