On Football Philosophies, Mesut and Why?

Nick Lowe wondered about ‘Peace, Love and Understanding’ while we’re thinking about ‘Mesut, Unai and Understanding’. Or is it a lack of understanding?

We can’t understand what Unai Emery’s philosophy is, how he is going to change everything for a brighter futures. That’s if you aren’t wondering how the hell he got the job in the first place. Largely, the expectation was of an ‘A-lister’ such as Allegri or whoever is trendy in the Bundesliga.

Instead, we got a serial winner whose one blot was six-month spell in Russia.

But we don’t understand what he is trying to do with Arsenal. Do we actually need to is a good question and the one we need to answer first. Practically, the answer is no. Our understanding of his tactics, philosophy and aims isn’t going to impact on the players form or abilities.

Is there any truth in language being an issue? There’s no evidence to support the theory beyond his press conferences. Let’s be honest here, communication is difficult enough in a second or third language; add in a situation where you’ve got to be wary but appear open? I wouldn’t judge him by public utterances at all.

And that’s offering the players the weakest of all cop-outs.

The basic question is whether Emery has a footballing philosophy? There’s nothing as tangible as Pep or Klopp’s styles which you can trace through their respective clubs.

And there is a good reason for that. Guardiola went from Barcelona to Manchester City via Bayern Munich; all wealthy clubs, dominant in their leagues. Klopp went from Dortmund to Liverpool; similar clubs at similar levels.

However, Emery went from Valencia to Sevilla (not dissimilar clubs) but Paris St-Germain is a different ball-game.

Balance Is Missing

PSG dominated French football without blinking yet he’s come to Arsenal, where the style was European in a league where power and athleticism are the order of the day. Sevilla were hard-working side with Rakitic in midfield are 18-months of his spell. After that, they used the width of the pitch with Kondogbia, Banega and Kryzchowiak dominating the centre.

He’s trying to replicate that here but he doesn’t have the squad to do that. It’s why Ramsey isn’t a clear fit in a footballing sense but also where Ozil’s problems surface. Rakitic is a more complete midfielder than Ozil; both are technically gifted, Ozil probably more so, but it’s not worth trying to compare their worth ethic defensively.

Therein is Emery’s problem: he doesn’t trust his defence entirely. Bellerin, Holding, Sokratis, probably Monreal as well; they aren’t on his hitlist but Kos, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi and Kolasinac? The former pair will be former players at the end of the season while the latter will also be gone in my view. That’s if we can find some fool to take them.

Needing to shore up the centre of the defence, to compensate for the deficiencies is an issue. It’s why we go 3-4-3 but for that to be effective, he needs a Rakitic alongside Torreira. Xhaka is not that player nor is Ozil.

Creativity is thus shoehorned into the side from the wings. At Sevilla and PSG, he had strong wide strikers. Auba is one but we have a vacancy for the other flank; Iwobi is the best we have at present.

That underlines the basic problem. Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Ozil; players who don’t fit, commanding a weekly pay cost of around £1m including taxes and insurances. That imbalance is why we need several transfer windows to right the ship.

Smoke and Mirrors

Which brings us back to the philosophy and our understanding of it. Arsene was lambasted for being inflexible and slow to react. Substitutions you could set your match watch by, a rigid 4-2-3-1 following flirtation with a back three months after rivals made it de rigeur in the Premier League.

Now, we have the opposite of that and you’d think people would be happy. Instead, other problems surfaced such as only turning up for 45 minutes. That’s if we turn up at all, which we didn’t on Saturday.

It’s that kind of result, that kind of performance which brings insecurities and uncertainties to the surface. In any walk of life, a leader who makes his message clear, takes his crowd with him. There’s no bafflement about what is trying to be achieved, even if it isn’t.

A football manager needs to take his crowd with him; it helps in genuinely dark times. Part of that is trying to see what is hoped for, where the team is trying to get. At the moment, with this squad, the message is being obscured by pragmatism.

As he refines the squad, a clearer vision will emerge, I’m sure. It has to if there is to be any longevity in Emery’s reign. The co-heads of Arsenal are two differing football business philosophies and with Raul in charge of the football side, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think the ‘hire and fire’ mentality is too far away.

It comes down to money. Can we afford to back the manager? Can we afford to sack the manager? Those kinds of decisions.

Compare The Contrast

The contrast across the KSE empire couldn’t be more marked. The franchise he is investing time and money into is succeeding. OK, the money is coming from loans to finance the new stadium but Stan is the visible front of the LA Rams. One step away from the Super Bowl but still he isn’t entirely loved by the home crowd. Or certainly not trusted.

But a successful team changes that. Ask any club owner. Winning major trophies or the major trophy, challenging for it; these create a positive vibe. Nobody would care whether Stan invested any money in Arsenal or whether we were the surety for his business empire, if we won the Premier League, challenged for the Champions League and only played on a Thursday if Hollywood demanded it.

But we aren’t, so we do.

We always knew a change in coach meant some rough times. Over the years, that faded from dropping out of the top four to maybe falling out of the top six. We’re still a step away from United and Chelsea’s tenth place but there is no certainty it isn’t coming.

Is that a carthatic moment we need? One where reality brutalises your senses? Not so much “wake up and smell the coffee”, but more “wake up, you’ve been out cold for a week”.

Perhaps we’re at the nadir now, destined to finish worse than last season. Do we need to do so for the board, the owner and bank manager to talk about loosening some funds to reshape the squad quicker than expected?

Even in that scenario, dropping out of Europe altogether, I don’t think Enos is ready to dip into his own pocket. He isn’t that kind of guy and more to the point, he hasn’t yet shown he understands football supporters.

’til Tomorrow.

25 thoughts on “On Football Philosophies, Mesut and Why?

  1. Özil is going nowhere. Who would have him on that kind of money? In order for him to leave, he would need to be offered a better contract than he currently has. Which says to me, that we won’t even be able to offload him in the summer. And that’s the crux of the matter. It unbalances the dressing room, when every player in that dressing room knows how much Özil is on and they think to themselves – “He’s not that much better than me on the training ground, yet he gets £350,000 a week!” Add to this, the manager is not a defensive coach and defending is not part of his philosophy. The result at WH came as no surprise to me. We’re not going to get anything from the Chelsea game either. UE needs to learn how to organise a team to defend as a unit. To manage the game, so that we give our opponents nothing in the first 20-35 mins of a game. Keep it tight and bide our time. Figure out our opponent. This is what I expect from a coach. Game management. It’s true we don’t have the personnel. But if you aren’t going to play Torreira from the start, then have AMN and Guendouzi as a midfield anchor rather than brain fart Xhaka. In fact he could have used Xhaka further up the pitch as the creative player. We all know he has a pass on him. Relieve him of the defences duties (he’s shit at it any way) and let him make the opportunities. The younger legs of AMN and Guendouzi behind him for when he makes a mistake. UE has as much to blame as the personnel on the pitch. And I agree what is the point of Bouldy!

  2. Maybe we do need to go further into the abyss otherwise are we merely papering over cracks?
    I’m not quite sure what Emery’s philosophy is but it’s a mistake in my view to not start with Ramsey if he’s committed to leaving Ozil out. For me one of them need to start as a 10.
    We always miss Monreal When he’s out. He’s our leader and most passionate player on the pitch.

  3. HenryNorrisDialSquare,

    Not sure where his head was, but AMN was not at the races this week. Indecisive and weak in the tackle. He would have been a disaster in CM.
    Could be because of his position, but those are the aspects of his game that have failed him before for the first team. Needs a confidence builder ,and soon.
    Can see your point about Xhaka ,tho. Terriers the best fit for both roles. Can we have another one?

  4. Once again a balanced and perceptive article. I find it almost impossible to believe that we are so cash strapped that we can only ‘borrow’ players during this transfer window.
    I have confidence in Unai Emery but how on earth can he develop the team if he cannot bring in the players we need. We have some wonderful prospects coming through the ranks but they need to be introduced into a winning team or they will lose their self confidence.
    I don’t know the answer ….. Arsene left us with a poor hand and we are dealing a rotten one to Unai. He, and we, deserve better, far better.

  5. Really enjoyed this one. I think “complete midfielder” describes what we need to a tee. At least two of ‘em and probably another deep-lying-Torreira-style one.
    Emery definitely relies heavily on the flanks going forwards and the teams who have shut them down (especially Wiolves) have shut us down.
    Ultimately, I would agree he doesn’t yet have the players he needs. The big question is: should he work with whst he has (ozil, Ramsey) in the meantime or establish a work ethic and system in the younger players? I think he’s leaning towards the latter.

  6. Great post yogi

    I think we over reacted to the 22 unbeaten run and we are over reacting to this run of unfavorable results. We are a team with 5th or 6th place talent and you expect a team with that sort of talent to sometimes lose an away game against mid table sides like West Ham. No manager can change that and I doubt Pep or Klopp or Mourinho or Wenger would be doing any better. We talked about this last summer. Other then pea, Lacazette, Torriera and this seasons version of Bellerin there are no players on the squad who would regularly be in the match day 18 for most of the worlds other big teams. When you have to count on a 19 year old like Guendouzi and Iwobe, Xhaka, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Kos, Sokratis and the 2017/18 version of Mesut Ozil as your critical players then it’s inevitable you are going to struggle to compete with the other top teams. It feels like emery is trying his best to come up with something which will work but I think the reality is no magical formation change or tactical tweak is going to solve the root problem which is holding us back.

  7. Arsenal fans think their players are better than they are, Chelsea fans think their players are worse than they are. No idea why. The truth is Emery has done really well to get this squad as far up the league as he has. Given time he’ll build his own squad, which will probably be completely different to the current one. Arsenal are the third richest club in the country so pleas of poverty seem strange. Overpaying under performing players obviously doesn’t help but even so you aren’t broke. Given Spurs are where they are on a zero spend its not all about money in any case. But any manager needs time.

  8. Its best to write this season off. It isn’t about the new coach, but ridding the team of the ghost of the previous manager.

    Chelsea could be the next thrashing for us, if the Õzil/Ramsey impasse continues.

  9. YW …. good post. The time is come for serious deliberations. Honeymoon of seven months is long enough.

    My thinking is that we are making the mistake of trying to understand Emery through the Wenger lense as well as through the “success” stories of Pep’s CIty and Klopp’s Liverpool. They are all wrong references.

    Unlike Wenger, Emery is simply a head coach. His remit is to get the best out of the material he is given to work with not withstanding that he should have some say in the details of the said materials. His job is to look at the materials he has AT ANY GIVEN TIME, and formulate a concept that would bring the best out of them. After seven months with the team the graph should have started pointing upwards. I doubt that it is and I wonder if he is trying too hard to install ideas that are not compartible with the materials at hand. Can’t turn clay into steel.

    The real revolution would begin with the gradual reconstitution of the team towards his model concepts. And here we have to be patient because we are no Man C who can do it in two seasons.

    I refuse to cite the Liverpool model because Klopp’s Liverpool of three seasons is far from the whole story. The truth is that Liverpool has been in the wilderness for 28 years. Klopp and Fenwood USA look like their last step out of the wild. We need to be smarter than that.

  10. To take nothing away from the excellence of your piece, YW, on the subject of where we are as a club Arseblog has written a piece which would make a bookend to go with yours.

  11. Emery’s Sevilla teams finished 5th, 5th and 7th in 3 seasons in La Liga so he was never able to drag his squads to a 4th place finish. Teams tend to find their proper level over the course of a 38 game season. However, if you want something to be optimistic about he was able to do really well in knockout competition against the teams with Europa league talent and hopefully he do the same with us and get back into the CL thru the Europa league.

  12. To be honest, this defeat affected me more than the loss to Liverpool and it has made me to question the manager’s competence some more, the Ramsey &Õzil situation seems to be affecting the team, and their exclusion was akin to cutting off the nose to spite the face.

    People have spoken about being flexible playing to the strength of the available players and that was the reason behind the coach’s use of the 3-4-3, but the squad’s bad showing and the unexpected loss makes me think he should have stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation, particularly that Monreal and Bellerin were back in training.

    I mentioned earlier on in the season that the lack of an attacking midfielder to the liking of the coach was our major issue and that is evident now.
    The lack of dribblers in midfield and on the wings made us seem below West ham. Sad times.

  13. The one really concerning thing is our defense. Even with average players you should be able to defend better then we have so far this season. The Emery era is going to be a bust If he can’t figure out how to get his team to defend against other PL.

  14. I see Sokaritis is the latest defender to come out and talk about how we lack creativity and that final ball.

    “It is not about the two shots on target,” he told the Evening Standard.

    “Look at how many chances we would have had if we had done better with the last pass.

    “Look at how many chances we had to make the last pass. This is the problem.

    “I think we did not have what we had in the other games. We did not control the game better than them.”

  15. The West Ham game was all a bit Wengerish. A slow start, sideways passes, everything from the wings. There was a lack of creativity no doubt, but Emery is starting to make some unusual decisions:

    – 5 at the back handed WH the middle of the pitch
    – Torreira not starting?
    – AMN ain’t a full back

    Without Xhaka’s crappy header the game would have been a draw and I reckon Emery was trying to rest players for bigger games. It didn’t work.

    He deserves time to put things right.

  16. I would be surprised if there isn’t a bounce against Chelsea. We play well at home even when we’re in a poor run. I expect us to win the next 3 games Chelsea, Cardiff and Man Utd.

    Not sure why Emery hasn’t asked Laca to drop deeper like he did for Lyon. He can play that 10 role behind PEA. You don’t need two wingers just a balanced midfield.

    Its best to write this season off. It isn’t about the new coach,but ridding the team of the ghost of the previous manager.

    Chelsea could be the next thrashing for us, if the Õzil/Ramsey impasse continues.

  17. The defence didn’t do badly against West Ham, Bill. It looks like Emery wants to play 4 at the back but doesn’t trust the players.

    He needs to throw caution to the wind a bit because Kos is an accident/injury waiting to happen. Play Sok and Mustafi in a 4. Get Torreira protecting them. Ask the full backs to measure their runs a bit more. Get an extra player in midfield

    Bellerin Mustafi Sok Monreal
    Guendouzi Ramsey Iwobi

    (Have that one on me Unai)

    The one really concerning thing is our defense. Even with average players you should be able to defend better then we have so far this season. The Emery era is going to be a bust If he can’t figure out how to get his team to defend against other PL.

  18. Once Upon A Time In America.. De Niro and Woods a favourite of mine.

    Can’t find fault in anything you have written YW. Not that I am looking to.

    I’m sure many this side of the Atlantic will be familiar with this phrase Bass , sorry I meant Football ” How low can We go?

    I wonder what Wenger and Gazidis respectively think?

    No Idea why I took Saturdays loss hurt so bad. I’ve not listened to any Radio or TV since. There has been a complete ” lockdown” à chez Moi.

  19. Hello all , good chatter. I’m not sure what to think… It seems like our only attacking outlet is pushing our LWB Kola all the way up the pitch leaving our defense utterly exposed. How many times do we see our CBs passing around, Belle and Kola are way up the pitch doing nothing. We make a forward pass, get harrassed off the ball, and all the sudden you’ve got two free wingers racing down the pitch while Kola is like, shit guys i’m all the way up here!

    Yall are right, defense can be coached and we still have some of the frailties of years past. For a while i thought we ditched that, a few months back we seemed solid. Maybe Holdini, Monreal had a big part in that? Our D-line has been changing every game it seems like, ideally you have some consistency back there right?

  20. we can only afford loan signings is the sort of thing i’d expect to hear from a recently promoted club flirting with relegation to come out with, not the 6th richest in the world. seems arsenal is just being cash stripped by its owner over and over. now cutting the wage bill frantically, probably not happy with paying 5th highest wages in league. aiming lower to reflect where we are heading under this owner at this rate…..mid table. emery seems to have not handled the end of our unbeaten well, neither have the players. it’s all so samey samey despite wenger being retired. begins to feel like a pr exercise that one ! mess of a squad. hope they intend to sort it out over the next couple of years, time will tell.

  21. I’m far from happy at the current state of affairs at Arsenal but it’s too soon to think of dumping Emery. And replace him with…? And to what immediate benefit? Anyway, he deserves time.

    As far as Kroenke is concerned, he isn’t going to make money by Arsenal falling further down the table and money’s what he’s about, isn’t it? Also, he’s obviously got a business philosophy, presumably one that involves making money and more money, so ruining Arsenal would hardly fit with that model. He hasn’t evinced much interest in the fortunes of Arsenal so he didn’t buy them as a toy to marvel at or out of some great love as Sir Elton once did. He may, in fact, intend selling the club and, if so, having all the shares would simplify the matter considerably. Now there’s something to latch onto.

  22. Really excellent read, YW. Sharp. Columns like this were what brought me to this site in 2007. Consistent quality.

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