Unai Emery – Slave to the Rhythm Who Gives Out The Message

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…

Win A Signed Copy of Heads Up: My Story by Alan Smith

Alan Smith’s Arsenal career featured 115 goals, but against whom did he score his final goal in a competitive match:

a) Hartlepool

b) Everton

c) Manchester City

Send your answer to competitions@aclfarsenal.co.uk with Alan Smith in the subject line, along with your name and address for your chance to win. Closes on midnight (BST) on Sunday.

’til Tomorrow.

21 thoughts on “Unai Emery – Slave to the Rhythm Who Gives Out The Message

  1. Ras says:

    Ladies and Gentlmen It’s Miss Grace Jones ( Ian McShane) voice over..

  2. C says:

    Emery is exactly the manager we need right now, somebody who is the complete opposite of who we had but somebody who wants and demands that we ‘play futbol’ with possession. I think his philosophy of possession and control of a game is different to Arsene and I don’t think he doesn’t start Aubameyang and Lacazette together because he doesn’t believe in it (because those that habe followed his career know he has played similar players together) but I think he wants the players to buy into his system and style and then bring that tactical tweak to the team.

    It will be interesting to see over the next couple of weeks how the pairing of Sokaritis and Mustafi get on. I know Mustafi is getting killed but Sokaritis needs to be taking some of this heat too. Lets also remember that they are a new pairing who, quite frankly have on played 2 competitive matches together.

    Early days but thrashing West Ham will do us a world of good.

  3. Bill says:

    Great post yogi

    Everyone loves to talk about tactics and formations but I believe a lot of the tactical stuff is over thinking. Football is a game where the defense has all of the advantages and a weaker team can shut down a stronger team if they stay organized. Its very difficult to break down any well organized defense. Why else is the average number of goals scored in a 90 minute football game in Europe around 2. Even for teams like Man City, a huge percentage of the goals they score come as a result of having the skill to quickly taking advantage of mistake on the part of the other team. We can point to a defensive mistake in just about every goal we concede and the same is true about nearly all goals we score. I don’t think there was anything magical or tactically intricate about the 2 goals we scored against Chelsea. For some reason chelsea lost focus for 20 minutes in the first half and were not marking our runners in the middle of the pitch. They refocused at half time and despite using the same tactics and players we didn’t score again

  4. Jonnygunner says:

    Good day all-thanks for the write up once more YW.

  5. C says:


    Have you ever though that mistakes are made because of tactics? Think about this, you play a 442 with a target striker and have players running off of him because you have a big strong striker and have players running off of him, thats called tactics. Pressing high up the pitch is a tactic and then have a counter tactic is to have a GK that is able to play from the back is a tactic because then you have all you outfield players able to get where they need to go and you are now playing with 1 more outfield player that the opposition can defend at the moment.

    I think you undervalue tactics massively my friend. They play a very important part because even the most organized defense can be breached with the right quality and right tactics. Having top quality players is good but if they don’t know how to play together than you have a brilliant bunch of individuals that will win fuck all.

  6. thrillbo says:

    Hello all, thanks for the post good sir. Lookin forward to an early match here in the states tomorrow. One of the key phrases that caught my attention…

    “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.”

    Unai is advocating for different play styles which is something i believe in. The best option isnt *always* to recycle the ball and keep possession (i.e. spain). Sometimes you need to change gears quickly and pick out a long pass to break the defense.

    Bill / C, enjoy the banter I can agree with both sides. Think bill has a point, ‘weaker’ teams can shut down ‘stronger’ teams with solid defense. We have seen it plenty of times and know what it looks like. Why can a ‘weaker’ team like mid-table/relegation Swansea cause us so much trouble? When we played against Southampton it looked like a league 2 side playing against Man United. Some defenses look impenetrable against our pedestrian passing. Russia had a 65 year old just back from retirement wanna Stoke CB and spain couldnt pull off the win!

    I think what bill (and some others here) want is to somehow break our defensive yips and finally get organized and solid. We want to see Liverpool come to the Emirates and get shut down, our back 4 bending but never breaking.

    On the flip side, we need both types of offensive to be truly great. We know arsenal can put together some long passing moves but how about the killer pass the bypasses the entire defense? When was the last time we saw one of our midfielders/strikers give each other the wink/nod nod and 3 seconds later BOOM! fabregas/song chip a pass over the back 4, RVP stretches ahead of some chump Chelsesa CB and rifles one home. Havent seen that kind of play in years if you ask me!

  7. C says:


    I get that having an organized defense from a weaker side can do the job.

    The point that I’m making is that my friend always says that tactics are overrated but isn’t setting up a solid and organized team, actually those managers using and having tactics: putting players in place to cover this particular space, having some players push forward while others stay back, playing on the counter. Its all tactics that the manager stresses, drills into the players and then re-drills into them in training so that come the match the tactics are already in place and the players are already drilled us as fans (specifically my mate Bill) think that the players just go out and play not realizing all the work that went into by the manager and his staff during the week.

  8. Bill says:


    There are big decisions such as are you a counter attacking team or a team that likes to press high up the pitch or sit back deeper. Those sort of decisions depend on the type of players you have. However when you start going deeper then that into tactics such as formations or some of the small tactical nuances we talk about then it becomes over thinking. An organized defense can stop almost any attack no matter how tactically brilliant because football is a game that favors the defense. That is why the average number of goals scored is in games is about 2. The teams that score a lot have the best attacking players and they are able to take advantage when the other team loses the ball in a dangerous part of the pitch. Anyone can watch film and imitate someone’s tactics but the same teams win the majority of the trophies no matter who is their manager because they have the best players who make fewer mistakes and they are able to take advantage when the opposition defense makes mistakes.

  9. thrillbo says:

    C – yeah I hear ya and think Yogi nailed it in the post saying the coaching is almost like brainwashing. I am trying to stay patient here, hard not to get impatient with sports, but the wengerball brainwashing will take a while to remove and replace with the Unai methodology. I also agree on the tactics, i think smart coaches exploit weakness, that is definitely a tactic and we need to be ruthless with our tactics and how we exploit weakness in the opposition!

  10. C says:


    Exactly, I think we as supporters look at a match and simply say, ‘tactics are rubbish and these players have been playing for years so they should simply know how to play’ but tactics play a MASSIVE role in sports because its managers making XI players gel in a specific way to play a certain way so that they look more like a team as opposed to XI individuals. Patience is needed but the signs are there.

  11. C says:


    You absolutely missing the point, tactics and a coach teaching XI players to play like a team as opposed to individuals plays a bigger role than you realize. Its why people talk about the difference between Pep and Mourinho or Simeone, they all have different tactics. The little nuances are the things that make the biggest difference. Watch a match mate and some of the little things like a player making a run to create space for his mate to run into are the things that the best players and clubs do because they are drilled to do it and if you think that is crazy then your mad. My for manager use to always tell me, ‘to be great you have to be good at doing all the little things right’ and tactics and winning is about doing the little things right. Listen to top players, actually read what their saying and its all about tactics and then within those tactics they are able to play. For instance, Conte’s style was BRILLIANT in his first season because tactically he got it right including formation and all the little things and in the 2nd year, it all went to shit because his tactics were found out and the players nor Conte reactes because they were drilled a certain way.

    Go to a match or watch a manager on the sidelines, they are yelling and telling players what and where to be. Constantly changing and tweaking tactics because its what they work on in training. FFS Emery literally is telling you what I’m saying.

  12. LSG says:

    Isn’t sitting deep against a more talented team and being organized defensively a tactic? The most common tactic perhaps but one nonetheless? What is the form of that organization? Coaching choices about how to organize the defence is a specific tactic within the sit deep and be organized general tactic.

    How to defeat that, create chances, and create errors to seize upon is a realm of tactical decision as well. One can debate how much the subtlety of formations affects the game but broadly speaking, a dispute over the relevance of tactics is pretty vain ultimately, isn’t it? It is which tactics help your team and match its abilities and quality to help maximize the team’s success.

  13. LSG says:

    I, for example, think that the better tactical set up to get top 4 this season, my priority and a short term one, would be to emphasize ways to defeat specific opposition rather than inculcate a general playing strategy that is difficult to master with some old time AW players and a collection of new players that might not really fit the approach Emery has in mind and on whose purchase he had little or no input. Moreover, I think our big limitations are at the back and our big advantage is having two clinical finishing strikers. So I favour a midfield diamond 442 with fullbacks overlapping and the left and right midfielders covering flanks behind them or a 352 to accomplish something similar and do the best we can with our strange and unbalanced CB partnership. Mustafa isn’t a great defender but he seems to play the centre of a CB 3 well and passes reasonably well from there.

    These are tactical decisions. I’m just a lay fan, enjoying football discussion on our beloved Arsenal. And discussing tactics is one arena for good discussion. Bill, you are always discussing tactics. In your own way, of course, but I happen to agree that right now it might benefit our team to set up to counterattack more, especially against tougher opposition and away, to make use of Aubameyang’s pace and Lacazette’s good interplay with him. Sadly we don’t have speedy players on the flanks in forward positions, but Bellerin is still pretty fast and was successful getting forward and cutting back. Where we were vulnerable was in Mkh not covering so, in a 442 diamond or 352 you have a midfielder or a CB who can come wide to cover the flank more easily.

  14. Bill says:


    Fair enough. To me it depends on how you define tactics. It’s like stats. There are big picture stats which are clearly important. Goals and assists are critical for droning a players effectiveness. However if you start to look at number of touches or passes completed or tackles attempted and other more nebulous stats then it becomes over thinking and in many cases misleading. IMO Tactics are the same. There are few pig picture things but after you get past those, a lot of the smaller things are much much less relevant other then the fact that they give us something to talk about on blogs.

  15. C says:

    Tactics- an action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.

  16. Bill says:


    I missed your 5:05 comment when I was writing my comment at 5:53. I agree with your comment especially the idea that may need to focus more on winning in the short term and your thoughts about focusing more on PEA and Lacazette and counterattacking. Those are both tactical decisions so you are correct to say I talk tactics a lot. My comment that tactics are over rated was a poorly worded over statement just like saying stats are over rated is incorrect. It depends completely on which stats or which tactical nuances you are discussing. Hopefully my comment at 5:53 offers a bit more clarity to the point I was trying to make

  17. C says:

    Well done to our U23’s for picking up a 3-2 win against West Ham in PL2 with a brace by Nketiah and a header from Pleguezuelo.

    Arsenal: Iliev, Olowu, Bola, Gilmour, Ballard, Pleguezuelo, Amaechi (Saka 73), Willock, Nketiah, Smith-Rowe, Nelson

    Subs: Medley, Hein, Olayinka, John-Jules

  18. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    Need to thrash west ham first. I still call that at some point their new players will click and they’ll give someone a game. I really hope it’s not us. We really need a win today.

    No ozil today due to illness.

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