Unai Emery is rightly being lauded for being pro-active during the half-time break on Sunday.
Having gesticulated his way through the first half, he slumped in his seat a few minutes before the interval contemplating his actions. From 1 – 0 up and dominating, we were 2 – 1 down and reeling. Removing Mkhitaryan and Iwobi came as no surprise. The former did little throughout the first half and the latter faded after being integral to our early ‘success’.
Match of the Day 2 produced a graphic which showed substitutes scored eight and assisted in seven goals for us this season. The manager’s direct intervention impacted on every game bar the opening two in the Premier League. We’ve taken more points in the second half than any other team. In the league table based on half-time results, we’d be 18th.
It’s glib to suggest that if he got the team selection right in the first place…
And entirely wrong. This is a manager whose Plan A has a genuine Plan B. Sunday is an excellent example of how we played differently. There were no wingers with Lacazette and Aubameyang providing the width, stretching the defence and creating space for Aaron Ramsey to exploit. Who would have thought the Welshman would be so effective in his favoured role.
It’s different to the way Mesut Özil plays. It’s not as creative although Ramsey ended the derby with two assists. Which by curious coincidence is the number of league titles won by Tottenham. Ramsey interprets the role as augmenting the strikers; being there with to link the ‘creatives’ to the finishers and providing goals himself.
Both types of #10 have reaped rewards for us this season. Against Leicester, the German was unplayable for a spell which brought us three points. Ramsey similarly so yesterday.
All Aboard The Pork Chop Express
The obvious question is which suits Emery better? The energy and application of Ramsey or the fleeting genius of Özil? Both are capable of outstanding games and of being anonymous. I am loathe to criticise Ramsey after Sunday but one match a season does not make. He played very well but like Özil, shows little of the consistency which justifies an enormous pay packet.
Inevitably, there were suggestions that selling the German in January and giving his money to Ramsey was the best solution for the club. If the rumours of Özil’s strop are true, it’s certainly worth considering.
And gets away from the point of today’s post. Namely, the inspiring work of the boss at any time during the game. We’re not rigidly stuck in a 60-minute cycle before substitutions.
Emery observed afterwards that the changes were one of the scenarios planned before the game. His thinking wasn’t the proverbial moment of inspiration on the touchline, the outcome was considered possible. We might be chasing the game and this is how to react. There were, by inference, more options; this was the one he and his coaches deemed the best solution.
And it is collaborative. C
Compared to what we became accustomed to, it’s a fundamental shift in thinking. Arsène’s impact on English football was similarly dynamic; it’s cyclical and there more evolutions in managerial style to come.
There’s no doubt, however, that it feels good to have an interventionist at the helm. The squad need it and feed off it. As a result, we see vastly improved performances and points
The Pillars Of Heaven Are Quaking
There’s a genuine ‘feelgood factor’ from the performance as much as the result. Where previously there were questions about slow starts and unconvincing draws, belief surged. A repeat of that tomorrow wouldn’t go amiss.
What happens though, if the unthinkable occurs? The unmentionable where a dire Manchester United side – should they be called ‘Eric’s’? – ends the unbeaten run. Defeat is coming – probably – between now and the end of the season; how deep will it puncture the good feelings around the place?
Not much, I hope; this is the start of a new era and with the fight displayed at the weekend, we know what the squad is capable of. Imagine what it might be like when it’s filled with players hungry for success?
If the worst happens, it’s worth remembering what ol’ Jack Burton says at moments like this.
Elsewhere, the FA charged Arsenal and Spurs for failing to control their players. They already gave Tottenham a refund by not charging Son; hiding behind ‘the referee saw it’ isn’t an excuse and nor is Keith Hackett’s wilful misinterpretation of the Laws of the Game as I observed in yesterday’s comments section.
Finally, the FA Cup sees us travel to Blackpool or Solihull Moors in the third round. Blackpool are favourites with the second round replay at their gaff but you never know. If Solihull win, I believe that the FA changed the rules a few years back so that the tie can’t be switched to the Emirates. A tie at a non-league ground? Bit of a culture shock for most of the squad, that’s for sure.