Cech Isn’t Out, Leno Isn’t In: When Does The Goalkeeping Hokey-Cokey Begin?

Unai Emery met the press yesterday ahead of the weekend’s trip to Chelsea. The burning question was whether the stories about Czech Cech checked out; was Petr keeping his place in the team?

“I am very happy with his performance. He has experience, he has quality, he has the capacity.

“Also, with Bernd Leno [it’s the same]. They are two goalkeepers who are important for us. They have different qualities but for us in the way we want to play, they can [both] play.

“For Saturday, the decision for me is easy. Petr Cech can continue to start the match, I believe in him. [But] If Bernd starts, I believe in him also.”

In other words, I’m not going to slag off a player to you lot. Which is right; if we want that kind of attitude, Jose Mourinho is heading for the tin-tack at United so we could get him in.

Cech’s performance against City epitomised the uncertainty the team feels about their new style of play. Almost kicking the ball into his own net was the nadir; his Sprake moment and one from which there is no coming back, if it goes into the net.

It didn’t. He saved well on the whole and certainly played his part in the scoreline being kept respectable. He also did things badly. Primarily, his distribution. The short passes from goal-kicks were too slow, with City able to press us very high up the pitch.

Splitting centre backs is all well and good, but only works if done at speed and the central midfielders drop to occupy space, dragging opponents out of position. We didn’t do that effectively on Sunday and I’m not sure it will click in a week on the training pitch.

Number One Is Perry Groves – An Unusual Tactical Innovation…

Playing out from the back is all well and good, but some times, you need the ball pinged long. It’s an effective weapon if the ball is delivered accurately which is something Cech struggles with. It was a point Emery made:

“Goalkeepers can play like a player, to start short with the centre back or the right or left back. It is not compulsory to start each action that way. Maybe if the opposition is doing high pressing against us, then we need also to find another option and to play the ball long in the second action.”

It boils down to decision-making. The team must be on the same wavelength to vary the clearances, knowing when the opportunity arises and when to take it.

Which begs the question of whether Emery has infinite patience with Cech? No is the simple answer. My view is Leno isn’t in the side while the defence gets to grips with the new way of playing. A new defensive partnership in the centre, with the left-back out injured; that trio of circumstances begs for stability which adding a new goalkeeper into the mix won’t bring.

If, of course, Emery doesn’t rate Leno…

The Spaniard was right to divert attention away from the goalkeepers. His view is we lost because of something more fundamental:

“[Arsenal] didn’t lose [against Manchester City] because of our personality, our idea, our style. We didn’t lose for that.

“We lost on other things, we can improve on other things, tactics, improve for our learning on the next match.

“But also, we are building our style because we think it’s the best way, to have the control on each match, to find the best way to win.”

It was evident from early on that we weren’t facing City with the best plan.

The Meek Shall Inherit The Squad

Do we go back to the drawing board or continue to plough forward, hoping the team get better. Of course it’s the latter; giving up after one match against the best side in the country isn’t on the agenda.

This weekend and going forward, the expectation is of continual improvement. It won’t be linear; there will be ups and downs. However, we know the path will be upwards. Or at least, we will know when the path is upwards. Defeat at Chelsea wouldn’t be a surprise given our recent history at Stamford Bridge nor will it plunge us further backwards.

We knew there would be a bumpy road ahead. The squad he inherited is ill-suited to his style in key areas which will take several transfer windows to correct. I wonder if the board and Kroenke wrote off this season as one of adjustment and so long as we don’t slip to seventh or lower, they will be happy with whatever happens?

Fortunately, Unai Emery has higher expectations than those above him in the ‘org chart’.

’til Tomorrow.

24 thoughts on “Cech Isn’t Out, Leno Isn’t In: When Does The Goalkeeping Hokey-Cokey Begin?

  1. C says:

    Wow, simply wow….Mavididi has passed his medical and agreed personal terms with Juve and is set to be presented.

  2. Jonnygunner says:


    He’ll play in Serie C apparently….the under 23 team

  3. C says:

    Cech IMHO should be dropped fot his distribution even if its playing it long. You could even see the times he played it long, he was terribly inaccurate when all he has to do is get it in an area for the likes of Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette to run onto and he failed at that.

  4. C says:

    Campbell officially joins Frosinone

  5. Stu says:

    Sixth para you mentioned United when it should have been City. The blue mooning Mancunians will be going apoplectic, while the the Red Devil fans of Dorset will be as confused as a Mourinho press conference.

    Not that I give a rats arse whether any of them are happy!

    Me? Put something misleading or wrong in the post. I don’t think so! I don’t…oh…YW

  6. C says:

    Emery on the roles of 6,8,10:

    “We can speak about the No 6, the No 8 and the No 10 [roles],” Emery added.

    “Torreira today is a six, eight. Normally every player has two positions – Torreira is six, eight.

    “Maybe also Elneny is six and eight.

    “Xhaka maybe also six, eight.

    “Matteo [Guendouzi] maybe six, eight or eight, six.

    Maybe another player, a more attacking player like Aaron Ramsey, he is more of an eight, 10 – but this possibility to play with two or three midfielders, it depends on each match whether to change or not and the demand in each match.

    “Whether we can do one midfielder more either more attacking or more defensive

    Basically Torriera, Elneny and Xhaka as DM’s first, Guendouzi CM and Ramsey a more attacking CM or possibly 10. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Elneny pushed ahead of Xhaka because he can sit, win possession, keep possession.

  7. Silly Sausage says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to play in a style that works best against whoever you are playing?

    One dimensional coaches soon get found out.

  8. Joel says:

    The squad he inherited might not be best suited to his style of play.. (in fact.. unsuited to any Manager with any sort of tactical approach to match day football!).. BUT he should, at the very least, select those players who are best suited to his style of play… Cech isnt suited to passing the ball out decisively ;Xhaka isn’t suited to, similarly, moving the ball forward quickly, pressing the opposition or shielding those around him;and when called upon to play further up the pitch.. at the top of a midfield diamond.. Ramsey almost reverts to a “false number 9” position and offers little protection to his team-mates.
    Many of us hoped that Emery could instil a more professional and caring attitude into these players and their colleagues but I’m not so sure now. This being the case he’ll probably get better results playing the newer squad additions rather than some of their more illustrious colleagues who’s bad habits.. developed under Wenger… are probably too ingrained to change….

  9. Blue Yonder says:

    What is considered a good, or acceptable result this week? I would be happy with a draw but consecutive defeats, albeit against top teams, would be tough to swallow and would provide more fuel for the many critics (I’m looking at you, Sam Allardyce) who take glee in trashing anyone.
    Continuous improvement is what Emery probably wants but points are important, too.
    Chelsea are undergoing change as well so it will probably come down to which side wants it the most on the day.

  10. nicky says:

    You only refer to three players of the “old school” viz Cech, Xhaka and Ramsey. With the arrival of so many top-class newbies, surely Emery now has a”blank canvas” on which to develop his
    plans. 😉

  11. C says:

    Blue Yonder,

    I know some will say that a draw is a good result(ofcourse anything other than a loss is a good result) but I don’t see why we couldn’t get 3 points, I actually think we will.

    Chelsea are going through a transition as well and if we are honest, are they that much more talented than us? In midfield I fancy Torriera/Guendouzi/Ozil against probably Kante/Jorginho/Barkely. Their back line can be got at (I know ours can be too) and their forward line, sure Hazard and one of Pedro or Willian will be a problem but so can Aubameyang and Lacazette.

  12. C says:

    Ospina is officially a Napoli player on a season long loan .

  13. Bill says:

    Great post yogi.

    We need to get results even if that might mean occasionally playing a different style then the one you prefer. Pep and perhaps Liverpool can get away imposing their style against any other PL teams but even Pep’s record record in the CL has been relatively underwhelming. He isn’t able or willing to adapt when he runs into a strong team who can sit deep and frustrate him. Arsenal playing out from the back sounds good and we should be able to impose our game on teams in the bottom half of the table. However you can’t do that against teams with similar or better players. I am hopeful Emery will be flexible enough to adapt against stronger opponents

  14. Adam Singh says:


    Interesting. I think the dilemma for Emery is if he doesn’t play Ramsey as one of the two ‘pivots’. Then it means either Ramsey or Özil have to play wide which isn’t great offensively or defensively.

    Maybe certain home games against weak teams we can get away with playing Ramsey as an 8 but for most games I think it leaves us too exposed.

    So does that mean ieither Ramsey or Özil have to be dropped?

  15. MikeSA says:

    I think people tend to lose perspective and expect too much too soon.

    it has been said about him and Emery has stated himself that he prepares for the opposition, I.e. his selection, formation, and tactics will be guided by the opposition.

    But, he first needs to build a style and culture that differs markedly from what went before.

    The players first have to adapt to this, and against strong opposition that is difficult.

    At this stage it doesn’t help to chop and change and disrupt the foundation he’s trying to build by asking the players to play differently because of the specific opposition, so for now there’s not much room to manouvre from a tactical perspective.

    In terms of Fat Sam, he’s an arsehole of note who is hardly the poster child for successful management.

    Adams, as good a defender as he was for us, is not exactly playing with a full deck, and Merson, apart from actually being a Chelsea fan, is also not the brightest and I don’t think his excesses helped the mental capacity either.

    Those three in particular are nothing to take notice of.

    We are going to have to be patient, this is genuinely going to take at least 6 months to start looking like the team can operate as a unit with the new methodology.

    Along the way we’ll pick up points against the weaker sides (it’ll at least start becoming less of a lottery than it has been for the last decade or so), and slowly but surely we’ll start picking up points against the stronger sides.

    A draw would be an excellent result tomorrow, but we can’t expect it.

    Personally I’d like to see signs of improvement and, like against Citeh, to not be embarrassed like we were last season (anyone remember 6-0 against tomorrow’s opposition for Wenger’s 1000th game?).

    So no, a loss won’t be the end of the world as long as we make a go of it and aren’t totally embarrassed like we have been before.

    In terms of starting players who were already at the club, no manager in any business should just walk in and change everything from top to bottom (ask Moyes how that worked out for him).

    Emery has walked into a major reshuffle, so he’ll be looking for points where he can retain some semblance of stability.

    He’ll need to keep some form of continuity and give the previous incumbents a chance to prove themselves before a complete overhaul, hence Cech keeping his spot for now, maybe even Xhaka too.

    Ramsey is the big question mark for me.

    I don’t think he fits the system at all, and won’t be a starter going forward. He’s not trustworthy in a defensive role and he’s not good or quick enough in an attacking role. He’s a (poor) one trick pony who gets in the way of better attacking players and disrupts skillful and speedy movement and transitions.

    However, if Emery bullets him it’ll get a lot of fans and pundits backs up, so I suspect he’ll have to try and fit him n somewhere for now.

    At this stage I doubt any significant foreign team would be interested in him, so I suspect we’re stuck with him for now.

    I’d like to see Torreira paired with either Goendouzi or Mikitaryn.

    I’d like Lacazette and Aubmeyang joined by either Welbeck or Mikitaryn (I’m not convinced about Iwobi just yet).

    Ozil has to play 10. It will take some time to build the understanding up front, but they’re all intelligent footballers (especially if Mikitarn plays in one of the wide berths like he did at Dortmund), so it’s just a question of patience for at least a few months, not 10 minutes.

  16. LSG says:


    We agree on trying Mkh with Torreira, perhaps a Coq-Santi type pairing. And that Ozil has to play centrally. I agree we have to be patient, but we also have to talk about what we see, which can sound like negative criticism after a loss. That doesn’t mean calling for the man’s head.

  17. Damon says:


    I’d drop Özil. He’s a great technician but a shit player. When was the last time he won us a game? Just one game?

  18. MikeSA says:


    I’m not opposed to discussion around where changes could be made and how we might set up going forward.

    My comment was purely aimed at some of the bizarre criticism from some quarters that was heaped on Emery after one game against exceptionally strong opposition, and to discuss some of the reasons I think he has to exercise some caution in how he goes about transitioning the club.

    It was also a bit of a note for reference to some who seem to make bizarre claims of some variety of clairvoyance despite espousing exactly what the vast majority of other fans actually said anyway.

  19. lari03 says:


    I’d drop Özil. He’s a great technician but a shit player. When was the last time he won us a game? Just one game?

    December 2017 against Newcastle, Ozil scored a volley. The game ended 1-0.

  20. lari03 says:

    But I dare say I can’t remember Ramsey winning us a game singlehanded. He is a cup winning goal scorer, but when last did he directly give us 3 points, all his goalscoring exploits considered?

    Our current problem is finding a way to accommodate the best players on the team at once. Not to mention our obvious lack of wingers and dribblers, Ozil can be dropped, Ramsey and Mhkitaryan too, the system dictates that we use only 1 of them, while we find other hardworking contributors to make up the team.

    Xhaka is slow, Elneny is better in the new system, so it is about the coach finding the right balance.

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