Keeping It Monreal & More

As the players train for “one hour and a half, [maybe] one hour 40, whatever”, Unai Emery’s fandom of the Manchester music scene of the 1970s and 1980s comes to fore. “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” drills through the air with the message chiselling into the players’ minds.

And everybody is happy nowadays – except for Bob, resident curmudgeon of these parts – finding there is no illusion in life, it’s all hard work under Emery. Nacho Monreal confirmed that when he spoke about his own situation and life with his compatriot in charge:

“All the time we must give our best performance. If we have to run, we have to do it, don’t save any energy.

“After that, he loves that we enjoy and have a good atmosphere in the group. While we are training, it is ‘come on guys, do everything’ and after you will have time to relax and enjoy with your team-mates. It is good for the team.”

The pitchside gym casts a shadow over proceedings, haunting every stumble in a sprint and misplaced pass like a footballing naughty step.

Life isn’t all different under the new regime. Like “long possessions”, for example; I’m not too sure that we “protect the ball” any better than we did previously. Monreal reiterated Hector Bellerin’s point at the weekend that Emery is more of a tactician.

“Probably with Unai Emery, we work more tactically. He is a Spanish coach and in Spain, we work a lot on tactics, set-pieces – I think we are improving in this aspect.”

It was a low bar, to be fair.  And in the attacking third, we are improving our set-pieces. Defensively, we’re not giving the impression of being stronger. Playing out from the back is, at the moment, putting us under pressure; self-inflicted pressure at that.

Once More Into The Void

That said, Petr Cech saw he’s not the only goalkeeper who finds having the ball at his feet and not putting his foot through it difficult. Jack Butland looked even more distressed by the situation than Cech, which I didn’t think was possible.

Monreal spoke of the rationale behind the tactic.

“This is our idea for this year – have more possession, don’t lose stupid balls in the middle of the pitch and be more compact than how we were before.”

We’re definitely not losing “stupid balls in the middle of the pitch” because 90% of the time, no-one’s in the middle of the pitch: it’s a footballing wasteland. Lucas Torreira may fill that gap and is in training, despite complaining of some tightness in his calf at the weekend. Unai Emery circulated training ground photos on social media so all with the Uruguayan seems good.

Monreal is in talks with the club over a new deal – they are “in touch” – and despite interest from Real Sociedad and reportedly this morning, Barcelona, he is happy to stay. He mentioned playing until he is 40 but best to get through the next few seasons at Arsenal; it’s not been a good time for older players with injuries.

Returning to last night’s football, Granit Xhaka given time and space dictated the game at Leicester in the first half. England backed off and he stepped in to fill the void. The usual “wish he played for Arsenal like that” messages filled social media; I wish he was given the time and space to be able to play like that with Arsenal. The Premier League is less generous in that sense. Switzerland is the favourite shirt, favourite pair of trainers, that Xhaka slips into while he’s breaking in the new boots at club level.

Marked Man

England’s goal was simple in the end but there was nothing glorious about Stephan Lichtsteiner’s marking at the far post. Was it a lapse, a good phase of play by England, or a sign of a lack of playing time at club level? The cup competitions arrival will change that. It’s hard to envisage Unai Emery not rotating his side heavily for those games. It’s a good way to keep players sharp and ready to step into the breach later in the season.

That’s it for today. Arsenal back to the forefront, international football tucked away out of sight for a month or so and Newcastle United firmly in our sights.

’til Tomorrow.

21 thoughts on “Keeping It Monreal & More

  1. Rose gave the Leach a bit of a runaround for sure. Think they were man o Mano for the goal, and not his man scored. He was stood there after with his hands out palms up. Nuff said

  2. I agree with Bill from yesterday that you really can’t plan to achieve victory on a cup competition. If we win the EL, it will be wonderful. But given the CL groups, I can foresee some very good teams dropping into the EL for the knockouts. I think it will be a tougher competition than last year.

    What you can plan for is the league. Hopefully Emery will figure out the best way to get the most points this first season. Some sacrifices of idealism for pragmatism may be needed. A balance is needed. Someone on a podcast I listened to noted that Emery seems to veer between gung-ho attack and defensively sitting deep—like in our Chelsea match. Some way of playing that integrates the extreme tactical ends of the spectrum might be more effective.

  3. YW,

    For the goal Lichsteiner was marking Dier. Not sure where the CBs had gone that he needed to take up a position in the middle of the area. For some reason 6 Swiss players were trying to mark 3 English players at the near post. Even then, no one tracked Welbeck’s run. Pretty poor marking overall and Lichsteiner was kind of isolated.

  4. Great post yogi

    I think Nacho has been far and away our best player the last couple of seasons. He has been arguably the only consistent player during these last 2 seasons when we dropped out of the top 4. In terms of his defense you just have to compare the difference between the left side of our formation vs the right. The rest of the league targets our right side for a very good reason. The difference between the security of our right vs left side is analogous to what happened when we had Sagna on the right. Despite playing solid defense I would argue that Nacho is not eye catching but he also has been effective going forward. I understand there was no transfer fee but signing Kolasinac to a very lucrative contract has been a major head scratcher and just another example of how badly our player scouting and evaluation cratered in the last decade of Arsene’s reign. Signing up Nacho for another few years sounds like a good idea to me.

  5. Wavey,

    Maybe he should have shifted onto MR .
    For someone who’s not had many minutes this season he put a hell of a shift in.
    Looked like his boss told him that the only way to get into Unais 1st team was to run like Bellerin. Blowing out of his arse in 2nd half.
    I like his Leachiness tho. Hopefully Hector will learn much from him, and run a lot too.

  6. I agree with Limestones comments from yesterday and I agree with his comment at 1:35PM today. We certainly have a chance to go deep and possibly win the Europa league but winning a knockout competition like that is highly unpredictable. We should be concentrating on collecting every point we can in the league. Unfortunately the state of the squad which Emery inherited means that we will probably have to sacrifice some of our tactical idealism for the sake of more pragmatism if we hope to climb back into 4th place.

  7. I think winning the Europa league is way beyond this team. Among the teams in the EL are AC Milan, Chelsea and Sevilla………Keep in mind that first round losers from the Champions League drop in to the competition so we may also face one of [Barca, Spurs or Inter] and [PSG, Liverpool or Napoli] and {Manure, Valencia or Juventus]. While the draw will ensure we don’t have to beat all of them I won’t be betting on it. There was a huge gulf between us and Athletico last year and I am not convinced we are any better this year but I will reserve judgement until we start Leno and Torriera.

  8. LSG,

    I tend to disagree about planning for cup competitions, you can plan and focus on them more than the league. Look at Madrid during the Zidane years, they went down early in the league and focused on the CL by planning for success there. Its easier to prepare for knockout stage matches, 2 legs than a full season. I think we should focus on the EL, FA Cup and other silverware. The PL, we will challenge but it won’t be this season or next, so focus on competitions we can win like the EL, even if some of the clubs drop, we still have a very good chance.

    Its interesting that people look at the Chelsea match and say we loss but fail to remember that Aubameyang missed 2 sitters, Mhkitaryan skied a sitter as did Iwobi when we flipped the game on its head. Bill talked about Sevilla being a nice story, ignore that because he knows fuck all about that situation because EVERY season they sold their best players and he would challenge early in the season but would get knocked out the CL and then boss the EL.

  9. Good post Yogi!

    Nacho has been consistent for us and has been quality. I would have no problem giving him a new contract.

    Torriera needs to start, full stop. I think both Guendouzi and Xhaka have shown better with Torriera as their partner.

  10. As Saturday draws nearer I wonder if people would be placing bets on balls over the top scored against The Arsenal defense, but it’s Newcastle ….

  11. lari03,

    I hold the opinion that if a team decided to hoof it on every possession, say you get 50 hoofs a game. How many times to they get thru on goal 1v1 with keeper? 2, 5, 10? Totally valid strategy right now. Sit back and let Hector bomb down the wing then hoof it deep if we lose possesion.

  12. C:
    Let me get this right, the focus should be on getting top 4 with lifting silverware being 2nd?


    Your point is correct. During the Wenger years I think any of us would have rather won the Europa league then finish in 4th place again. This season I think that given the choice of one or the other most of us would rather win the Europa league rather then finish 4th. However, I think point Limestone is trying to make is that is the uncertainty of trying to build your strategy around trying to win a knockout competition. A competition like that is a crap shoot and much more likely to get derailed by a random event such as running into a team that is on a hot streak or perhaps a hamstring injury to a couple of our critical players that takes them out over a 2 game stretch or if our team has a single bad game such as that first leg against Monaco a couple years ago in the CL. One bad game kills you when you only have a 2 game tie. You can make up for random events or playing a bad game or losing a critical player for a couple weeks over a 38 game season but not in a knockout competition. Building your strategy around winning a knock out competition is analogous to building your families financial strategy around winning the lottery.

  13. I understand the need for patience. However, the bottom line is Emery has to get back into the CL and back into the top 4 during the next couple of seasons. The last few years of the Wenger era saw us lose a lot of our reputation as one of the worlds big teams. Being outside of the CL 2 years in a row is bad enough but the longer the streak continues the more our reputation fades no matter who is the manager.

  14. If we are hopelessly outside the top 4 by Jan or Feb then the focus obviously has to shift more towards the Europa league. Again somehow someway we need to move back into a CL position in the next couple seasons.

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