Arsenal Under Emery: A Tactical Analysis 0

Newcastle United V Arsenal

Arsenal witnessed a change at the helm after 22 years as Arsene Wenger put down his coat as the Arsenal manager at the starting of the ongoing season. Wenger has had glorious years with Arsenal for the past two decades playing a total of 1702 matches with a very admirable 54% winning tally. He is well renowned for playing his laissez-faire approach which includes playing his players in a free-flowing attack against the opposition and giving freedom to individual talent to play their game.

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The future seems to be in correct hands as Arsene Wenger is succeeded by Unai Emery who is known for having similar thoughts as the former gaffer. Emery is more focused on playing structured football and is open to altering strategies depending on the opposition. During his successful spells at Valencia, Sevilla and Paris Saint-German, he earned his reputation of being an efficient data and detail collector. The new challenge for Emery lies in improving results at the Emirates and to change the tactical culture that has been deep-rooted over decades. Arsene Wenger throughout his managerial career believed in players learning from their own mistakes and improving accordingly. He was also an advocate of the 4-4-2 as he believed it to be the best formation to cover space. Though at the ending of Wenger’s spree, his choice of play was criticised for inefficiency and a lack of variation to go with technique. On the other hand, Emery is a firm believer of the 4-2-3-1 formation to start with, which generally consists of Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal as the wing-backs pushing high down the flanks.

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During the recent matches, while attacking, Arsenal are often seen pushing high from the flanks resulting the wingers coming in to join the attacking midfielder and the strikers making it to a formation of 2-4-4. These movements are not only practised to increase the passing options for the players, but to undermine the opponent’s defensive structure. This formation resulted in a successful outcome as they triumphed over Fulham in a 5-1 victory halt a few days back. Also, the point is to give the centre-backs adequate options while attacking so that they play either the wing-backs and the centre midfielders or vertically pass on the ball to the winger coming inside the channel. The pushing forward of the side backs gives the wingers an opportunity to take up more central roles to support the attackers which creates a decision crisis for the opponents to stop them at the centre or at the flanks. It is also kept in mind that the two central midfielders stay close to the centre-backs while attacking so that they maintain the stability in the case of counter-attacks. For that matter, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira are the most viable options for Emery as they are reputed for not playing risk passes and being very aggressive when it comes to defending. Arsenal under Wenger often lacked at shaping properly during counter attacks which resulted in conceding goals, but now the problem seems to be taken care by the current manager. Defensively what Emery has also successfully changed is to raise the defence line which leaves very little space in between the midfield line making them more compatible and compact as a team.

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Previously, Unai Emery’s clubs were facilitators of talented players to the rich clubs. So it became a necessity for him to dig up fresh talents from the youth academy every season. Not to forget, Unai is also proficient in developing major talents as he assisted Juan Mata, Jordi Alba and Ever Banega improving their game and regarded them to be the most important ones he has developed in his managerial career. Amongst the current players for Arsenal, Matteo Guendouzi is one of the young Gunners who has caught the gaffer’s attention after a promising performance against Chelsea. He quoted, “We can’t just stop at one mistake, the confidence is giving them the possibility to do the things well and also when they make a mistake, it makes them want to do better on the next attempt. I think my idea with the players is to give them confidence every day by working hard in every session, in the video analysis, with the videos we give them. We give them the opportunity to watch their action first, their good actions, their bad actions, and this is the way for them to take a lot of confidence or learn how to improve.”

Although Arsenal under Emery is having a steady start to the season still there is a long way to go for the side. The team looks very robust as the season is progressing and are now just 2 points behind being at the top of the table, but they need to make sure that they remain consistent throughout the season.