As Arsenal dropped further two points against Wolves at home there are serious questions being pointed at Unai Emery and on his decisions. While, the fan base is still recouping from Xhaka Gate and last week’s performance against Crystal Palace, it is clear that the Arsenal manager has yet again tactically failed due to poor decision making.
Generally, to understand where the manager has failed tactically, a detailed analysis of the game is required well with Unai Emery that is not the case as his every wrong and unreasonable decision is prima facie, starting from picking a wrong playing XI, unreasonable substitutions, players playing out of position and a formation which players clearly could not play in.
While during the post match conference Unai has conveyed that tactically he is happy with the squad and that the players understand his instructions but neither the stats nor the performance on the pitch reflect the same. Hence, in this article I would cover the tactical decisions which clearly effected Arsenal’s performance against Wolves and led to two crucial points being dropped from a winning position at home.
The Mid-Field Diamond :
Since, the start of the season every Arsenal fan has been craving for Mesut, Aubamenyang, Lacazette and Pepe to start the game together. While, this seems an expensive approach, however, this could very well be played against a team like Wolves at home. Though, Mesut got his long awaited start but the Spanish manager was keen to leave Pepe on the bench who has just started to look confident and settled.
So, with Pepe on the bench and Xhaka not in the squad, the Arsenal midfield looked like Guendouzi, Mesut, Ceballos and Torriera in a diamond four with Torreira playing at the tip of the diamond (CAM), Guendouzi at the tail(CDM) with Mesut and Ceballos handling right and left side of the diamond respectively.
This diamond four approach left Mesut lying deep on the pitch making him less effective on the game and took Torreira a near perfect CDM completely out of the game. It isn’t rocket science to know that the diamond four in the midfield is not an easy task as the players need to be well drilled in the training alongwith having good communication among themselves which clearly was not the case against Wolves. There were times where diamond four lost its structure, were not pressing at all and if were pressing than there was no pattern in the press which left the gaps open for Wolves to exploit specially for the likes of Neves who continuously fed Jota on the left.
Ofcourse, it is not all down to the manager but playing a system of midfield with four in a diamond for the first time that too where influential players are playing out of their positions and the set of players who have not started a single game together shows nothing but bad managerial skills, poor tactical understanding and also the fact that the manager does not understand his players well.
In conclusion the diamond four midfield had no structure, were not tight enough to each other and also lacked the pattern of pressing. It is no trade secret that a midfield of four in diamond has to be played with players who know each other well, must have been drilled well, are aware of their structure and are always communicating. However, Unai Emery still opted for diamond four with set of players who are playing together for the first time is beyond my understanding and rightly left everyone baffled.
Martinelli on for Laca : This substitution changed the whole structure of the midfield from a diamond four to a midfield of 3 with Martinelli shifting to right and Ozil on left of front three. However, since Laca is coming off after a lengthy time on the sidelines and Martinelli scoring goals for fun this did not look bad in respect of player to player switch but it did have an effect on the midfield whose structure was changed once again.
Saka for Torreira : The substitution which changed the whole dynamics of the game. With Torreira off, the midfield saw another change as Ozil slotted in the midfield of three alongside Guendouzi and Ceballos. This formation left Ozil and Ceballos to do jobs which they are not good at, therefore, Arsenal conceded a goal from a throw-in as Ceballos failed to track his runner.
Well the better option would have been to bring in Pepe for Ceballos which would eventually leave Guendouzi and Torreira as the two CDM’s/CM’s and Ozil at 10 with the front three of Pepe, Martinelli and Aubamenyang. A better decision here by Unai could have seen a different result to the game as the probability of Torreira letting his marker slip is way less when compared with Ceballos.
Kolasinac on for Tierney: Soon after Torreira was taken off Arsenal conceded a goal out of nothing. The goal left Unai Emery and his team to find a winner in 14 minutes + added time. Accordingly, the most predictable substitution here would be to bring on Pepe who is looking sharp with every passing game. However, Unai Emery waited another 11 minutes to make a substitution only to bring Kolasinac on for Tierney and leaving the $72 million player on the bench.
The only reason which could back Emery’s decision would be Tierney’s match fitness but the fact that he has already played 87 minutes and Arsenal are drawing a game which they should be winning at home were good enough reasons to make the offensive substitution and bring Pepe on the pitch moments after conceding the equalizer.
Get back to basics:
Right players in right positions: The most basic thing to do in any sport when the team is failing to perform is to get back to basics and so is the case in football. The basics in Emery’s situation would be pretty simple, to play the players on the positions where they have been playing for major part of their careers. For example : A ball winner like Torreira at No. 10 is of no use and neither is Ozil when he is receiving the ball in front of his Centre Backs and Goalkeeper.
Simple swaps: Basic substitution of players without over analysis would have definitely helped Unai Emery here. As emphasized earlier the decision of bringing Kolasinac for Tierney left the supporters baffled. A bit of clarity about his players would have definitely helped Unai Emery here but it seems he is pragmatic in his approach and would concede to nothing even when the results aint favouring him.
4-2-3-1 instead of 4-diamond-2: The team has been struggling for sometime now and Unai Emery could have easily opted for a basic 4-2-3-1 formation with Torreira and Guendouzi as midfield two and Ozil at 10. However, he chose something which has never been tested and had very less probablity of being a success on the first go.
To sum up the presnt situation of Unai Emery, it is clear that he is living on thin ice and if the rumors are to be believed a defeat at Leicester would result in him being sacked. Well as things stand right now Unai Emery has failed to get the best out of the squad which clearly has much more to deliver and with Man Utd and Spurs having their own struggles to collect points on regular basis, Arsenal fans will take nothing as an excuse from Unai Emery and the Board if they fail to qualify for Champions League.
P.S. : As its November 03, 2019, Happy birthday Unai Emery. Lets get the basics right.