Frankfurt Preview: Unai, The Mad Scientist

Usually, matchday lifts the gloom but this one has the potential to darken it. The toughest group match in the Europa League comes hot on the heels of a diabolical away performance.

Yes, I’m looking forward to this evening.

Unai named his squad. Sickly ickle Mesut is rested after playing the sum total of 71 minutes so far this season. Sokratis is also axed for the same reason but having played a few games more.

The defence was so bad on Sunday that Emery thinks Shkodran Mustafi will improve it. I’ll let that sink in for a few moments before continuing.

Unai quickly stamped on the ‘Ozil’s scared to play in Germany’ angle after racism he suffered forced his retirement from international football. The Spaniard claimed he is using the full extent of his squad because of the number of matches we’re playing:

We are playing now a lot of matches and I want to use different players and also have some rotation in the first 11 and in the 19 players in the squad for Thursday and Sokratis and Mesut they rest this match.

71 minutes and Ozil’s knackered

This is an ‘Emery baffles me’ moments. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is considered expendable, included in the squad despite knowing we’re completely stuffed if he picks up an injury. Mesut Ozil, who genuinely is expendable because we have replacements, will watch the game on the telly.

Maybe Aubameyang travelled wrapped in cotton wool, encased in a glass box with the message “Only for use in emergencies?”

I’m surprised Bellerin and Tierney aren’t included in the squad, just for an added dash of panic.

Mind you, there will be enough panic at the back with every goal kick so maybe that’s enough for one game.

Can I Be Frank?

There are some interesting choices for Emery to make. Rob Holding surely starts but alongside whom? David Luiz because that is a potential first-team pairing? Or Calum Chambers because this is the sensible choice for the first team given how badly Luiz and Sokratis are playing?

The same question can be asked of Maitland-Niles, who I think gets it in the neck unfairly quite a lot of the time. He’s no right-back, the mantra goes. Well, no sh*t Sherlock; he’s a defensive midfielder whom Arsene thought could cover at full-back and Unai needed him because we had no-one else. Few players convert from central midfield roles to full-back successfully; usually, it’s the other way around.

Still, Mustafi played at right-back for some part of his career and I’d honestly be tempted to take AMN out of the firing line tonight. Let the people see how bad it really might have been…

Looking at the squad, it’s not hard to see that being the limit of the changes Emery makes from the weekend. Personally, I’d lump Xhaka in tonight to get him used to midweek football so he captains the cup sides, Torreira then gets the run in the Premier League as he is our best defensive midfielder.

Emery won’t take that step; he isn’t ‘brave’ enough to take the decision. It isn’t fear which holds him back but a natural conservatism and, I think, short-termism. The latter is the natural habitat of the football manager and by no means unique to Unai.

The question is whether he decides to go out in a blaze of glory, with all gun(ners) firing or ploughs ahead, sticking to his belief. Is he one of the Magnificent Seven or a peasant farmer waiting to be rescued?

Taking It Down A Notch

Now is the time for him to be bold. The old ways aren’t working; the players are confused. Embrace the new, Unai; embrace the new.

Which makes this seem a ‘do or die’ match. It isn’t. The reality is that we can lose this game and still win the group. We could lose twice to Eintracht and will still walk into the knockout phase. All European competitions are designed for that to happen; big clubs never exit in the group stage. Sponsors just won’t allow it.

This is a game for experimentation. Catch out the opposition by trying something different from goal kicks. Mix it up. Play short and then chip over the top. Play long and leave them bewildered as your players swarm around to claim the ‘second ball’.

I wonder if any football coach thinks in that simplistic way, not just Unai?

My line-up for tonight would be:

Leno; Mustafi, Chambers, Holding, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Smith Rowe, Guendouzi; Nelson, Pepe, Martinelli

God knows who Unai will choose. We shall find out 75 minutes before kick-off.

Enjoy the match wherever you’re watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

45 thoughts on “Frankfurt Preview: Unai, The Mad Scientist

  1. consolsbob says:

    Sad, Jonny, very sad.

    Shouldn’t you be out fixing a leak or something? Surely not posting while on the job?

  2. andy1886 says:

    Nearly as good as the wonders of working from home JG!

    Quite like your team there YW, although it would be interesting to see AMN in his natural position. Hopefully Pepe will get a goal under his belt tonight too. Leno too might get a rest though.

  3. Pete the Thirst says:

    Is Holding fit? If so he must be really rusty and a big risk to throw him in from the start. Chambers plus another for me, Bring Holding on later in the game.

    Surely this a game to throw some youth into the mixer: Nelson; Willock; Martinelli.

  4. jonnygunner says:

    Morning all.
    I’m looking forward to tonight’s match,Unai’s team selection will be interesting……….
    This time next week I’m off to Northumberland so I’m going to miss the Manyoo game-gutted…..or will I be?
    A whole week of cooking for myself,my wife and my mother in law…bliss.No,really-bliss.I love cooking….and drinking wine…then whiskey(Irish…triple distilled).
    A nice trip to Lindisfarne, have a look at the Abbey…..and then ‘run for home’(thanks,I’m ‘ere all week).
    Until then I have to put up with miserable Arsenal and all you miserable bastards.
    Thanks for the daily dose YW,and come on you Gunners for tonight.

  5. Arsetralian says:


    I like that idea
    AMN in his right place to see if he is good enough there
    Sink or swim
    He would be motivated and has plenty of energy

  6. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Time for a back three tonight. Holding , Chambers & Mustafi. AMN & Kolasinac can get forward at their leisure. I hope Ozil`s not too tired as we may need him in October.

    I disagree with YW regarding AMN being unfairly criticised. If anything I think he gets away with it on most occasions as he`s come through the ranks. My main issue with him is concentration & effort rather than ability. It shouldn`t matter where you prefer to play , if you give the ball away you do your best to recover for the team. I see it at home but not away from home with him (but he`s far from being alone in that).

    I`d have preferred to leave PEA at home for this one & let Pepe play through the middle.

    Hopefully the youngsters who get a game will get us a result.

  7. Arsetralian says:


    Mustwe CC Hold Kol

    AMN Torr


    ESR Martinello Pepe

  8. Arsetralian says:


    Hope I am wrong but not sure Reiss is going to make it


  9. Woolwich Freddie says:


    I’m all about rotating the odd couple of players every game but I’m not a fan of wholesale changes unless it’s, say a league cup game in a three-game week (see upcoming Forest game). This is a hard match and potentially (further) demoralizing if we get heavily beaten. I agree Auba is the one you’d think about resting but sending Eddie on loan doesn’t help with that. Maybe Pepe through the middle to rest Auba and hope he’ll break his duck?

  10. Stu says:

    Given the problems we have with the team (bedding in new and developing players, poor players, protecting players etc) and that the Europa League is, frankly, pi$$ easy to progress in. Although it is not necessarily easy to win – it gets difficult from the Q/F onwards as the few big teams come together or as we managed, the team failed to arrive in Baku – I’d be tempted to use a completely different squad for this comp. Let the kids, the returners from injury and anyone in our for sale window play, but no body else. It may help some develop. It may help sell a clueless defender to some third rate club in January, it will save injuries/burn out to key first team players. We might even progress far, and could bring in fresh, top quality members of the squad if we get near to the final if we so choose. But let’s not give key players like PEA etc 50+ games a season.

    End of the day, achieving Champions League qualification is what the club wants and what Emery needs to keep his job. Knockout football gives you a chance of that, but it’s sh!t or bust. Qualifying through the PL has to be easier, even though we failed spectacularly last year. With 38 games you can have some howlers, especially in the current climate with two berths up for grabs between four clubs, maybe five if the likes of Leicester go on a run. That’s twice as many opportunities as available through the Europa League, which could be decided on a single moment; an off-side, a tackle, a poor pass etc. Either way we are playing our key players in the PL, so why add to their workload in the EL?

    If it was down to me, I’d go all in on the PL with an Arsenal 1st XI and just see where the 2nd XI go in the EL.

  11. C says:

    Need a dose of positivity there Yogi.

    I would imagine that Martinez is the cup GK, at least until the knockout stages.


    Wouldn’t mind seeing Saka get a run out. Not sure how if I would go with Smith-Rowe from the off given he is just back from injury but he would come on for the last 30 mins for Ceballos.

  12. Noon Gunner says:


    If ESR is to replace Ceballos for 30 mins, C, it’s probably a good idea to select Ceballos in the first place, no? Unless Ceballos is a secret weapon, invisible to all until the moment he slides in a perfect asist, baffling ref and opposition alike.

  13. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    Yup, that’s my thought proceas with Ceballos.

    I had Ceballos in there then thought, ‘Xhaka becomes our cup Captain so he must play and save Ceballos for the PL and knockout rounds’.

  14. Noon Gunner says:


    OK – I must agree, if anyone deserves cotton wool (strange image, when I think of it, but it seems to have acquired currency), he does. He reminds me of a baby giraffe when he starts running and dribbling – not very robust but four fast-flailing legs providing all kinds of options. Fortunately, the legs are controlled by what’s clearly a proper futboling brain (to borrow your expression).

  15. YW says:


    Martinez isn’t the one with the problem from goalkicks. Leno is. If Emery is instigating any change in his flawed ‘short kick’ philosophy, then the German must play, surely?

  16. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    I actually do think Xhaka has a proper futboling brain but lacks the type of play and is to slow footed for the PL. I actually think he will do well in the Europa League because he will have more time and won’t be pressed. But it is painful watching him trying to sprint back when he is out of position.

  17. C says:


    Completely agree and I’m not even of the group that the problem is purely Leno, though he could mix it up a bit. I generally tend to wonder if Leno and others know its risky playing it short to Xhaka but also the decision’s the CB’s make need to be better to.

  18. C says:

    Team news: Arsenal: Martinez, Chambers, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Willock, Smith Rowe, Saka, Aubameyang

    Subs: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Ceballos, Guendouzi, Martinelli, Nelson, Pepe

  19. Pete the Thirst says:

    Imagine if it was down to you…


    If it was down to me, I’d go all in on the PL with an Arsenal 1st XI and just see where the 2nd XI go in the EL.

  20. andy1886 says:

    Bizarre risking Auba rather than Pepe or even Martinelli. Smith Rowe with a lot of the creative responsibility on is shoulders.

  21. C says:


    More interesting to me is Saka getting selected over Nelson.

    I wonder if Pepe would have started if he already had a goal to his name?

  22. C says:

    O fuck!!!!!

    Chambers to DM and Maitland-Niles to RB or visa versa

  23. Ras says:

    The number of shots at the Arsenal goal continues unabated.

    We have created 2-3 decent chances. It could turn around and bite us in the derrière.

    .The problem in midfield continues. We are unable to get hold of the ball and control the tempo.Smith Rowe had a good chance.

  24. C says:


    Watching Xhaka and Torriera reminds me of watching Jorginho and Kante from last season: Kante sitting infront of the back 4 you see what a player he is and the midfield ia balanced, Sari put him on yhe right to accomodate Jorginho and he is still a good player but just doesn’t have the same impact. Torriera infront of our back 4 looked a player and now he is moved to the right and is still a player but not the same impact and our midfield looks worst.

  25. Ras says:


    Yes I can see what you mean.Its like a basketball game, to and fro.

    Our Gial has been under siege c soir encore. What changes ?

  26. C says:

    Chambers with a quality ball and who would of thought Aubameyang would of missed that!!!!!!!!

  27. C says:


    Yup, I would love to see Torriera back sitting infront of our back 4.

    Saka has been superb and has looked a player!

  28. C says:

    Saka and what a superb strike that was!!!!!!!!!!!

    Saka has been superb since the opening whistle!!

  29. Ras says:

    That was a peach of a shot by Saka. Natural instinct.

    PEA should have passed that to Pepe.

  30. C says:

    Aubameyang!!!!!!!! Torriera and Saka hounding the ball down and Saka to Aubameyang and 3-0!!!!

    Saka MOTM for me….

  31. C says:

    Get in there, clean sheet with Mustafi at CB.

  32. Ras says:


    Yes stunning Goal by Saka. PEA was never going to pass to Pepe.

    I’d have passed it.A goal for Pepe would do him a world of good( bizarre expression).

    The score flatters us. Emery in terms of the result has got out of jail c soir.

  33. SV says:

    I liked the counters and the pace. If only the Premier League were that naive and easy. Playing Auba for 90 min., but resting Oezil is strange. Emery should have learned his lesson last season and prioritize the EPL now.

  34. C says:

    Full credit to Mustafi and Chambers(minus his lack of pace) who played well.

  35. Adam Singh says:

    Good result today. Haven’t watched the highlights but looks like saka played well. Hopefully this will kick start our season. Did we continue with the kamikaze goal kicks?

  36. Blue Yonder says:

    Glad that Chambers got a start – but at RB? So he could get torched by another pacy winger? He’s a CB or, preferably, a DMF.
    Great game by Martinez and maybe worth a shot in the PL, though it’s highly unlikely, barring injury.
    Starting PEA every game is a gamble. An injury now would probably see Emery being fitted for a necktie (party.)

  37. Dukey says:

    Only just the 24 shots against us last night!

  38. Ras says:


    Only😅😀😀😀..The score does not tell the true story.

  39. Noon Gunner says:

    Something I liked about the performance, especially in light of the Watford Wimp-Out, was how the players didn’t allow the very aggressive Frankfurt press, coupled with what seemed to me some relaxed refereeing of their fouling at times, to get them down. They seemed to have come much more mentally prepared for a fight, in a hostile stadium, and despite defending on the back foot much of the time – and we can argue about why – I never got the sense we were going to let our concentration go as comprehensively as we know how.

    Add that to the brazen zeal of the youngsters and we have reason to think not all is lost (yet).

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