Wenger’s legacy is fundamental. Free flowing, attacking football by a club with integrity and class.

Significance of David Luiz et al on D-Day

Via Wikimedia

By ShardGooner

So deadline day (D-Day) is here. Apparently Raul Sanllehi didn’t suffer from a culture shock for too long, as it is rumored that Tierney and David Luiz are on their way today. That gives us a pretty good idea of what our squad will be like for the coming season. Still some question marks as some players could yet leave for other leagues. But for the most part, we now know our players and can look forward to the season ahead.

But what does that mean? Personally, after the debacle of last season, my expectations are low. The club for its part has seemingly abandoned the process it had outlined and has simply stated that the target is to qualify for the Champions League. We certainly have the squad for it, but will we do it? Emery’s challenge is clear cut, and also where my doubts come in.

He and the club may not care, but my personal hope from this season is just that the football be fun to watch. Doesn’t have to be all out attack, doesn’t have to be perfectly executed plays with flashy passes. But the way we set up has to be with the intent to show we came to play. After ‘acting like a big club’ off the field, it’s only fair we ask for the same on the field too.

What I don’t want to hear any more of is how a team like Huddersfield has great attacking threats and watch us set up with 3 defensive minded midfielders. I also don’t want to see our primary focus being on trying to neutralize the opposition’s tactics at the cost of disjointing our own play.

I want to see an established style of play. I want to see the system play to the strength of our players, while minimizing their weaknesses. This doesn’t mean we need to stick to a single formation. A formation doesn’t determine the overall philosophy of the team. I’d like to see us return to playing out from the back, even if it doesn’t always work out. I’d like to see us be able to keep possession, even under pressure, and to not attack exclusively from the wide positions.

In terms of defense I’d like to see us have a coherent structure. Are we a pressing team, or do we fall back into shape and hopefully be able to spring on the counter? Do our players know to track runs or cover spaces? This is something Emery was supposed to improve on from Wenger, and if he’s capable of doing it, now would be a good time to show it.

I’d also like to see an end to constant mid game changes to system and personnel. It can occasionally come off as clever, but for the most part all it seems to do is disrupt the rhythm of the game and leave us on the back foot, scrambling to hold on. Coach the players on the training field, and let them express themselves during the game.

Here are some of the players who can have a big impact on our season, provided the system is doing its job.

Ozil – Was heavily shackled last season, had a falling out with the coach and the club was trying to force him out. Was brought in to rescue the team after a horrid loss to BATE, right after his Bergkamp message. Which was entertaining and enlightening in how much outrage it provoked. But Ozil’s main strength is provoking defenses. As long as he has players to pass to, and a system that allows it, Ozil will find the space and the pass to break the defensive lines. Early indications in pre-season from both the coach and the club are that Ozil is fully back in the fold. Give him a platform, and he should thrive. Especially with

Pepe – Provides an attacking threat from out wide. He brings speed, dribbling ability and goals which should stretch the opposition defenses and open up more space in the centre for Ozil, the strikers and for…

Ceballos – Adding technical ability and drive in midfield will be of immense help after last season where we were often too static in midfield when Ramsey wasn’t playing. If he can help provide control over possession, that alone would help both in the offensive and defensive ends. It’s only a loan deal, so hopefully we also see Joe Willock afforded some game time to help him grow into the role. My worry is Emery will choose to play Ceballos as a No10, rather than an 8 which, maybe helps our pressing, but will cause the same problems in midfield as last season.

Mkhitaryan – I see a lot of hate online for Miki, some of it tangential (related to Ramsey and wage bill), most of it because he’s not been the player we hoped for. The player we saw at Dortmund. He may never be that, but now that we have more options out wide, with the additions of Pepe, a returning Nelson, and maybe Martinelli and Saka, it might be time to try playing ‘Miki in the Middle’. Not at the cost of Mesut, obviously. But definitely instead of playing Ceballos there. Mkhitaryan played his best football as a No10 and this might light a spark. He puts in a defensive shift, and if indeed we need someone to press from the front in some games, I hope he gets the nod and Ceballos can continue to play from deep.

Xhaka and Luiz – Okay, I’m going out on a limb and saying David Luiz is a good signing for us. Both these players should help us move the ball out from the back, and both have long shots that could be an added weapon in our Arsenal. (Any puns are purely intentional)

Tierney -Another presumption this signing is happening. Based only on highlights and reports, he seems very much an attacking fullback, but better on defense than Kolasinac. Assuming that’s true, it would give Emery the option of going for an all out attack from both flanks with Bellerin and Tierney, or alternate with an attacking and a more defensive FB on either side. Last season we’d started with Bellerin being our prime attacker before his injury, and then this responsibility fell on Kolasinac. I’m hoping neither will need to carry that burden this season with all the additions in personnel.

Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos – Luiz and Sokratis are the old men of the defense, and Mustafi’s status is in limbo, if not in doubt. It will be down to one or more of these young defenders to show they can be the future at CB, especially with Saliba coming in next season. Holding has already shown glimpses of his talent, and if he can stay fit, ought to be challenging for first choice. Chambers played at Fulham at DM and won their player of the season award. Hopefully that positional switch has given him greater understanding and reading of the play, because that’s what he was lacking earlier. His ball playing ability is something that would fit in well. Mavropanos seems to not have had luck with injury nor the trust of his coach. In the little we’ve seen of him, I think he could be a good option as a no nonsense CB. Might not have much finesse, but sometimes that’s a luxury not needed at CB.

Implications for Unai Emery

Emery is now in his second season at Arsenal. In his first year we’ve seen turmoil in the squad, some boring football, with alarming figures in attack (11th in shots!) masked by high rates of finishing, a worse defense, and no coherent strategy of how to play. We also saw a total collapse at the end of the season, which led to us missing out on qualifying for the CL, with Spurs of all teams, taking that place. Nevertheless, he’s not only kept his job, he’s been more than adequately backed in the transfer market. Unai Emery, 3 time Europa League winner, and Ligue 1 winner with PSG. Now is his time to show his future still lies at a big club. Will he shine or wilt under the bright lights? We will soon see. The new season is here!



  1. Thanks Shard.

    Holding for me is a cert. if he can recover from this injury. Can also play it out as can Chambers and now Luiz who we know can excel at passing it out if he can find the space.

    Is Chambers a better DM at this moment then Guendouzi who is still a rookie?

    Huge churn in the squad once again. Pepe won’t settle as quickly as an Alexis in his prime, but I guess he’ll settle in very quickly.

    Iwobi (& Welbeck) are the players he replaces in the squad IMO.

    Happy Nketiah will get minutes under a great coach at Leeds, Biesla also signed Pepe for Lille, I think.

  2. I’d like to see the new loanee and Willock and even Mikitaryean play at 8. Thought we might even see Iwobi there in an alternative dimension where Pellegrini was entertaining Cazorla & Rambo. But I don’t always get what I want *sobs*.

    Lots of exciting options in midfield then. as George says nothing quite in Rambo’s class but hopefully Pepe can compensate in the goals for and assists charts. Hopefully the coach can find the solutions in CM. *looks up the odds on Xhaka & Guendouzi combo starting*

  3. Thanks fins, for leaving a comment and preventing a total washout lol.

  4. stillarichAugust 9, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Don’t know what’s up with me but I feel almost talked out with football at present. Could be result of watching football constantly during summer ‘break’. Bad timing what with amount i have talked about pgmol and VAR for many years, given that all starts tonight. Have a read of Clattenberg’s latest in Mail on that, not that it tells us anything new (they’ve been told to not use monitors and go on word of VAR official, etc)

    Maybe soon as games start I’ll be off on that and the rest again.

    I’m looking forward to season though. Flicking through a fixture booklet yesterday couple of things stood out when they gave stats for each team from last year:

    Our goals conceded from errors figure was very high- 13 I think, might have been highest in league. City and Pool had something like 2 and 3 respectively. Number of the very defensive teams also had low figures.

    Other surprise was that our crossing number was lower than most, including plenty of teams from bottom half of league. Either they didn’t include certain cutbacks in the figures or despite that being our prime method of attack we didn’t actually have that many attempts at getting the ball in there.

    Defence wise, feel there’s a growing trend in league for tall powerful strikers, often operating alone. West Ham and Newc have both invested a lot in theirs. Wolves had one already and have bought another strong striker in Cutrone. Everton have the young English lad to deploy against us. Many of the mid and lower sides like to use a big striker.

    Does Luiz improve us in dealing with crosses and good headers (headerers ?) of the ball? Maybe a little. Reminder was there in pre-season of this threat when two superb headerers, Lewa and Dembele, finished expertly from good crosses without a cb being able to get near them.

    2nd big defensive one for me is dealing with counters. There was surely a big vulnerability there and I’m not sure the new guys make that much difference to it. Maybe a fit bellerin and Tierney can do so (Pool and City both use fast full backs to limit counter threat), but from centre mid we might be much the same in that if players get past them there is little recovery ability. Willock with his deceptive speed may help there.

    Like the rest, i guess I/we have to wait and see. A more potent attack will help some with defending as it will make teams more wary of committing to attacks, especially counters.

    Ah, it seems I was not yet talked out!

    • Hi Rich. That stat on crosses is surprising. Maybe they only count successful crosses, and not ones that were blocked/intercepted. Or maybe our passing numbers were generally low (possession) and of that we barely got into attacking areas.

      On tall strikers. Pity we sold Giroud huh. But I think we’re better off. Liverpool and ManCity both have a more fluid attack. I think that is the way to go. For stopping those big bullies, Sokratis and Luiz should help, but really it is on the fullbacks and midfielders to stop crosses from coming in.

      I haven’t been too impressed by our defensive structure. It was better under Wenger. But this is a new season, and hopefully Emery will have been able to drill the defense better.

      Of course challenges remain. Especially with the injuries and the late returnees. On the other hand, it’s Newcastle. We ought to win. I’m hoping to see a set style of play.

      It helped me to not pay too much attention to the summer intl matches. Needed that break after last season. I’m raring to go. For football in general, if not for Arsenal in particular (I’m waiting to be wowed)

      • Crosses one surprised me, too.

        Arsenal (605); * third lowest in league- only bettered by Palace (577) and Watford (570)

        Spurs (643) ; Brighton (636); Burnley (693); Everton (814) (!); Leics (779); Pool (721); Utd (638); City (783); Chelsea (692)

        Bourn, Saints, W Ham, Wolves all within 613- 664 range, so similar to us. No stats for three relegated teams

        I can’t imagine perfect methodology for measuring crosses but my guess is that those are not just successful (own player makes contact first) ones and are therefore overall total.

        Conclusion is that either lots of team’s are very big on crosses or that, despite impression we relied too heavily on crosses and cutbacks we didn’t actually produce that many of them compared to rest of league.

        Bit of both I’m thinking, though also that it really was our main plan of attack, and therefore we had a very average or below par year for creating chances and applying heavy pressure. That concurs with memories, especially moribund end to season and certain games where, once behind, we couldn’t muster much in response.

        • Thinking about it the crosses, figure could reflect absence of Giroud and then injury for Welbeck. Good as Laca and Auba are they pose moderate aerial threat.

          On this big striker thing I agree that for very best a fluid mobile attack likely better (though Ronaldo’s a bit nifty in air, Lewa,too. Cavani, Dzeko) but for clubs with more limited aims and resources, think big man makes lot of sense.

          Two primary modes of attack for non title chasers in prem are counters and crosses (with overlap of course), and while the target man may not be ideal for 1st method (esp if Glen Murray paced) they certainly are for 2nd.

          Then there’s hold up and fighting centre back aspect. Rondon stood out for that with Newc . Joelinton will, I think, be in that mould, but better. Looked like a one-man attacking unit from what I saw with Hoffenheim. Wolves another variation again with their Mexican fella very ably supported by a fast skilful player in the very impressive Jota.

          Pool interesting as they don’t have huge striker but love to get crosses in, and are good at it. Think key is mobility, overloading defences, quick decisive play, including first time crosses, and fact both Firmino and Mane are very good in air. Latter a rare example of a small un who uses speed, timing and excellent athleticism/spring to cause mayhem.

  5. New post up.


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