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’.