The Henrikh Manoeuvre and Adapt To Thrive

Yesterday’s UEFA Europa League draw threw a spanner in the works for the game against Qarabag. The Azerbijian – Armenia state of war means Henrikh Mkhitaryan won’t receive a visa. He did previously with Dortmund but didn’t travel on security grounds.

Baku is hosting the final as well, and you can bet he’s sure to get one if we get that far. Big if, as well.

Unai Emery hopes it doesn’t come to that, he wants Henners to be with team. Unai thinks everybody should be with the team. Which might well be the case for the Ukraine trip which is apparently close to being in the arse-end of nowhere.

UEFA could intervene and force Qarabag to play at a neutral venue but they studiously avoid these situations by rigging the draws so teams from warring nations never meet. Football authorities rigging a draw? Pffft…

Anyway, it’s a storm in a teacup to be honest. It’s a group we ought to win with all bar the final match followed by games in London. The fixture list doesn’t come much kinder than this.

Which is the same for the Premier League at the moment. We’re in the run of games we expect to take close to maximum points. Great expectations but not necessarily the reality. Cardiff grabbed their first goal of the season in midweek and still lost. We’ll offer them a chance or ten, we do to every other team.

The talking point is whether to let Aaron Ramsey practice his low-key celebrations or include Mesut Özil? I do think we’re in an either or situation. At some point, Lucas Torreira will come into the starting line-up at some point – probably tomorrow, to be honest – with Xhaka or Guendouzi partnering.

HEADING for the exit if I cock this up

Which seems to be two into one don’t fit. And they don’t; Ramsey or Özil, depending on the opposition. There’s some sense in not building a team around one player but with that policy comes questions over pay. It’s a lot of money for a squad player, in both instances.

Both can play deeper roles. With a defined defensive midfielder alongside him, maybe Ramsey’s contribution will return to the levels which raised expectations. Wales get the best out of him by playing a style which suit him. For Arsenal, he must adapt, as all players should.

And Emery expects players to adapt:

“I like the possibility to have the player play different positions on the pitch. It depends each match and is the same for other players too.

“For that, Mesut has played with me on the right wing and also as No 10 and we are going to continue to do that.”

Ramsey can do the same as well so Emery has options. It’s a different kind of ‘No. 10’ thinking, with the Welshman more a Platt/Robson style midfielder with late runs to the box.

It was part of a wider discussion on how the team is adapting to his philosophy.  He seems happy enough.

“Our demands are very high, very great, but I want to ask every player every day to give us more.

“Not just Mesut, the team, the squad. We need to push, we need to have ambition, we need to have desire to improve every day. This is my message for the team, for the squad and for every player.”

Slowly is the word I’d use to describe the work. Facing City and Chelsea was good in the sense it gave Emery a benchmark; this is how low we were, look where we are now.


He needs the team to get back to being flat-track bullies. We used to be good at that park, as all the big clubs are; beating smaller teams home and away was par for the course. It went wrong occasionally, of course it did but more often than not, we got it right.

People moaned about not being able to beat the big teams. Quite right if you want to be title challengers, you’ve got to be good at those games as well. However, if you aren’t getting the basics right, then beating the big clubs is just a good confidence boost for the players and bragging for ourselves.

Back to basics, aside from being a fine Billy Bragg compilation, is what we need to do. This is the time to do it.

’til Tomorrow.


13 thoughts on “The Henrikh Manoeuvre and Adapt To Thrive

  1. Woolwich Freddie says:

    ‘Morning all.

    Strongly feel that refusing players visas or failing to guarantee their safety should have your country’s teams ejected from the competition.

  2. YW says:

    Never happen.

    In the 60s when the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, UEFA planned to keep Soviet and Czech sides apart; to be apolitical. Same now, same with Israeli teams. They rarely ban teams. Didn’t even bar Berwick Rangers despite the two not ending the Crimea War until the 1960s. God help any Soviet sides if they’d happened upon the Tweed at that time.

  3. Woolwich Freddie says:


    I’m sure you’re right, YW. The principle of the thing pisses me off, though.😀

  4. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Thatcher, Chelsea…in Telstar, it is though people are straining to ruin a perfectly good single by association.

  5. LSG says:

    About the youth from yesterday’s post, I watched highlights of U23 NLD and think Emile Smith Rowe looks like a talent ready to face Europa opposition. How exciting if he were one of the rare cases to really make it in the first team. I like that he can carry the ball, pass with either foot but above all releases it quickly with one touch often—quick decisions and good vision. We’ll get our first look in Ukraine, I think. I wish they had the whole match on Arsenal Player—would be fun to watch the U23’s regularly.

  6. LSG says:

    I don’t think it is a great group. Sporting aren’t the weakest of the pot 2 teams and the Ukraine and Azerbaijan trips away will be somewhat difficult by dint of the long travel and conditions. But we should get through and enjoy seeing some younger players in first team action while keeping more senior squad players sharp. It could have been worse.

    The strength of several of the CL groups guarantees some very strong teams dropping into Europa in the knockout stages. I don’t think we will be favorites at that point unless we are playing Emeryball very well by then or have reinforced defensively in January.

  7. LSG says:

    I doubt Azerbaijan will reject Mkhitaryan’s visa application. They haven’t done so before.

  8. MesutsLeftFoot says:


    I have bets with a friend for a Arsenal vs spurs europa final.

  9. gooner73 says:

    Woolwich Freddie,

    Another solution would be to force the team from the offending country to play their home tie in a neutral venue in another country that doesn’t ban players for political reasons

  10. LSG says:

    Especially if the two teams were 5 and 6th in the PL!

  11. Mattack says:

    Morning all

    I have the feeling we may need to be patient today. Cardiff are well organised and difficult to break down. I think they have only allowed two goals in three games to date. They haven’t scored any though… what odds on that changing today?!

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