Unai Emery met the press yesterday, following which he spent two hours scrubbing his hands to clean off the germs in a manner which made Howard Hughes proud.
The Spaniard delivered his sermon from the mount on how he expects his team to play:
“Maybe we can do it directly with one long pass or by progressing with the passes, controlling possession to [help us] win the games. We can find a goal like on Saturday against Chelsea, or with less passes on the pitch.
“For me what’s important is that all the players know how to [use] the ball in each match and that they use the [ball in] the best moment or the best way to attack against the opponents.”
It’s an easy theory for the attack but despite not scoring against Chelsea, that’s not where our problems lie. Adapting to Emery’s defensive structure is proving the toughest for the players to get to grips with.
The problem with football is that on paper, it’s a simple game. In a theoretical discussion with acoutrements to aid explanation, it’s even easier.
Put a ball at a player’s feet in front of 50,000 people with an audience of millions? Football becomes a little more complicated. Especially for a team immersed in 20 years of thinking how the game should be played.
Football coaching is a type of brainwashing, getting players to react in a certain way even with a modicum of free-thinking; as Harry Palmer found, there’s no easy way to stop brainwashing and even tough love won’t undo it. There’s only a short journey from freedom to cornflakes and milk in the bottom drawer.
We’re all geared up for the next two months to be relatively straightforward; I suspect Emery has Unai on a healthy points haul as well.
Control Le Freak
When the coach spoke about formations, you got an insight into why the squad are slow to adapt to his way of thinking. It’s certainly more involved than anything Wenger asked of them, on the surface at least:
“We are working on different situations tactically. In the first we are playing with four at the back, then we have two and one, and one and two. With two and one, it is like a 4-2-3-1 and one, two, is for a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-3-3.
“We have players who train in this system. The moment on the pitch is different. If we need to improve in this mobility, the quality is very important, but also how the player is moving on the pitch.
“I think with two systems, we can continue to progress and think about winning the next match.”
The facetious streak in me wonders why the “players who train in this system” aren’t out on the pitch…
He touched indirectly on the issue of fitting Lacazette and Aubameyang into the same XI. Essentially, it isn’t going to happen until he gets the rest of the team sorted. Flat out, he made it clear both won’t start against West Ham.
“Control of possession” was a recurring theme throughout the press conference. However, our performance at Chelsea saw us move the ball quicker than a fence in the Sweeney moved stolen goods. Given Regan and Carter always caught them in the act, perhaps that’s not a good analogy.
Confidence is a fickle commodity in football and it will play a big part in settling us into the Emery era. A good performance and solid win over West Ham will go a long way to giving the players belief, as well as the confidence to continue along the Spaniard’s path.
Fickle Flame of Hope
Confidence is also fickle in the stand. There’s an air of desperation welcoming the return of Laurent Koscielny to light training.
One of the things apparent from the Manchester City documentary is just how much science goes into this phase of his rehabilitation; I don’t see any reason why there’s a sudden surge of optimism that he will return to the XI early given the medical team stated 24 hours earlier that he’s aiming to start with full training in November. I genuinely don’t understand where that’s come from.
And when you think about it, there’s no reason to believe that he will bring sanity to the madness of our defending. Early season is a dangerous time for Koscielny; he has a mistake or two in his system. Is it the desperation of Mustafi, Sokratis, or the pair together? The unspoken presumption is that it will be Mustafi who makes way but I wouldn’t be so sure.
The next few months provide an interesting fixture list, including the return of the Europa League. It’s a time for us to build confidence and also plot our revenge on Winterslag, who now as KRC Genk, look set for the group stage after a 5 – 2 win over Brondy in the first leg of the playoff…
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