Why Emery Must Use His Tactical Knowledge Better
When Unai Emery was appointed as Arsenals predecessor to Arsene Wenger, plenty was spoke about the style of play that would come under his new regime. Since his arrival, he has led them to a Europa League final and has certainly altered the methods implemented in Wenger’s era but they have not always been for the best.
Whether in charge of Valencia, Sevilla or Paris St Germain, Emery has insisted on his sides using possession in a meaningful way: forward passes rather than sideward and without the ball, releasing a high press on opponents. Clearly, Arsenal have taken this onboard as scoring has rarely been an issue since the Spaniard arrived last summer but it’s his defence that has often caused his downfall.
His persistence on playing out from the back has forced his defenders into trouble on numerous occasions, often leading to a chance or a goal for the opposition who have capitalised on an error. Bernd Leno has been instructed to pass to his centre-halves, who spread to form an option, rather than aim for a midfielder dropping deep or to his full backs.
At PSG, Tiago Motta would constantly come looking for the ball from his ‘keeper with the option to then pass to a defender or his fellow midfielder, which Arsenal have struggled to do under Emery. This comes from not deploying a defensive cover who is capable with the ball at his feet. Captain Granit Xhaka has been a poor example of just this, as the Swiss international posses very little in the way of protection. Lucas Torreira would be the obvious replacement, although Emery has been reluctant to utilise the Uruguayan.
Another critic to Emery’s mantra is that Alexandra Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang have simply not played enough football together. Both Sevilla and PSG used inside wingers in a 4-2-3-1, with the likes Neymar in France or Koke in Spain coming further infield to join in with attacks. Aubameyang could easily move into this left-forward position and Lacazette through the middle, yet Emery tends to play one or the other.
Balance has also been an issue on occasion, induced by the formation and such stress on attacking at speed. This has often left the midfield overrun, particularly as Emery only deploys the two in front of the back-four. His creative anchor, whether that be Joe Willock or Dani Ceballos, has not been tasked to drop back and help out his team mates, meaning opponents can through extra numbers forward. Therefore, the Gunners boss should revert to a 4-3-3, hardening the spine of the team, whilst having enough bodies to keep the ball as well as causing a threat further afield.
Hector Bellerin and Tierney’s timely turnaround in terms of fitness provides Emery with genuine pace, width and quality delivery from wide areas, rather than relying on straight balls through the middle. This in turn allows his dynamic players, such as Nicolas Pepe, the freedom to express themselves closer to goal and hopefully add to the two he bagged against Vitoria on Thursday evening.