Playing the ball out from the back – Progress Report

What on earth is going on with Emery?

We are a Harry Arter miss away from being the laughing stock of the Premier League. If the Cardiff player had scored from the gift that Cech presented him early in the weekend’s game, the Arsenal Blogsphere would have gone into melt down. The number of visits to this site and every other would have gone through the roof because that is what happens when we lose – every single Arsenal moaner comes out of the woodwork. As it happens, Arter missed and we won so as very close as we came to being the laughing stock, we are not and traffic in Blogsphere is very light; that’s to say, it is just me writing this and you reading it.

So what is Emery trying to achieve giving seemingly suicidal instructions to play it out from the back in the way he is? I have ventured the idea that the purpose is to draw the opposition forward with the aim of being able to pass the ball past them in the hope of releasing our forwards with more space to work in and therefore a greater chance of scoring?

It can hardly be said that the tactic is working smoothly as it often resembles something from a Keystone Kop movie but ironically one of the by-products is that the opposition are drawn even further forward in the hope of exploiting our errors and this in turn frees up even more space for our strikers.

This understandably drew humorous comments suggesting that if things continue like this the whole of the opposition will be camped just outside our eighteen yard line and all Cech will have to do is to chip the ball over them to give one of our attackers a free run on goal.

Chas raised the more serious question of: weren’t we playing out from the back last season? The answer to which in my view is, err, yes but I would add importantly: not in the same way. Notice how extreme Unai Emery has taken it: Cech is playing the ball out to Mustafi and Sokratis who are almost standing next to their respective corner flags. They are so far back, the opposition, who are also trying to do their own version of the high press, are drawn to the ball. Both our defenders then play the ball back to Cech. This is repeated during which the opposition have moved even further down the pitch which is the cue for Cech to play the ball past the advanced opponents and start the basis of an attack. The flaw in this, as we know, is that Cech keeps on fluffing his lines and giving the ball away, creating heart stopping viewing.


It was very different last year. If we got a goal kick, Cech would either hoof it long or if he played it short to say Bellerin, he in turn would try and move it down the field as quick as he could. By this time, and in either case, the opposition would have formed two lines of five with their goal keeper behind them otherwise known as — The Bus. We all remember what would happen then; we would pass the ball backwards and forwards across the pitch just outside the opponents eighteen yard line trying to find a way past before losing possession and then having to chase back like demons trying to stop a breakaway goal.

Anything, anything but a return to the monotony of that model has got to be the reason why Arsenal supporters are remaining so calm and tolerant of such comedic incidents. If those kinds of errors had happened last season, uh I don’t want to think about the size and scale of the melt down.

Emery has more room to manoeuvre among the Arsenal faithful than he probably realises, the divisions among the support are still fresh in the mind and the idea of returning to them is, I am sure, something that should delayed for as long as possible.

Emery does have the choice, of course, he could play Leno. Many have pointed to Guardiola’s first season and the ruthless way that he dealt with Joe Hart. It was thought that England’s ex could not play the ball with his feet the way Pep wanted and because of that he was shipped out. Guardiola then went on to sign Claudio Bravo and we all know how that worked out.

Back to Emery, yes he could have followed the Guardiola route or, as the Basque has done, give the old guard a chance to try and carry out his new way of doing things. Will Cech be able to adapt? It’s not looking good and we are going to see exactly what we have in reserve when we get to see Leno in the Caribou and the Europa. I like the choice that Emery has made of being slower in making radical change; big decisions on Ozil, Ramsey and Cech do not need to be rushed.

Guardiola took over a better squad and far greater spending power; he would have almost certainly been given the brief of your job is to the win the CL. Fanciful things like that might have swirled around the heads of our incoming Spanish contingent but there is a Gulf between the two clubs. In our case drastic change too quickly could have caused drastic problems, not something that would have been missed by the Arsenal hierarchy and as such I feel confident that an equally serious but far more down to earth message was made loud and clear to our incoming manager: no matter what you do always remember one thing – Arsenal do not do relegation.

Written by LB


42 Responses to Playing the ball out from the back – Progress Report

  1. mickydidit89 says:


    Have you had your bicycle pinched?

    You’re on fire and this is great for us. Much thanks

    Incremental change. Agreed. Gradual re-alignment of formations, gradual introduction of the new boys, and the idiotic idea that a goal keeper can use his feet 🙂

  2. chas says:

    Micky and LBG see comments on end of yesterday’s post re Chesil beach and the Death star, 🙂

  3. LB says:

    Worse than having one of my five road bikes pinched — the Mrs is away.

  4. chas says:

    Excellent, LB.

    How true about Laca’s goal ten minutes from time. Without that wonderful strike and without Cardiff looking a gift horse in the eye, this week would have been utterly miserable.

    The interlull was guaranteed to kill any early season enthusiasm and momentum which had been generated, but at least we can look at that goal for a few days in consolation.

    Football all about results, never.

    Last season, Cech failing in his build it from the back duties would have been Arsene’s fault immediately. I’m liking that Emery is being given a free pass to explore and invent his new Arsenal. I hope it continues longer than the next poor result.

  5. chas says:

    Five road bikes!!!!! – now that’s just greedy. 🙂

  6. LB says:

    In my defence I do have two sons who I press gang into riding with me sometimes.

  7. chas says:

    1 and two thirds each isn’t so bad. 🙂

  8. mickydidit89 says:


    I’ve got a bike you can have and it has a very comfy saddle. I’ll also chuck in the pannier bags and free postage. Never want to see the wretched contraption again. We’ve so fallen out 🙂

  9. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Thank you LB. Relegation:-D 😀

    Time (takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth
    You pull on your finger, then another finger, then cigarette
    The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget ).

    As you so rightly say, UE has much work to do and needs victories to keep the fans onside. ATM we have lucked our way to two wins (WHU were also profligate in front of goal). Can this good fortune continue?.

    As Napoleon said, “I would rather have a lucky General than a good one”. UE will hopefully prove to be both.

  10. Big Raddy says:

    Didit. It helps if you can stay on the contraption!

  11. mickydidit89 says:

    Bowie. Nice work Erik

  12. mickydidit89 says:


    Napoleon also said “just turn up and see what happens”

  13. Gilly says:

    I believe over time Emery will be more stubborn than Wenger. Even after the match he said he still believes in that tactic and Cech perfecting on it. I got scared.

  14. GoonerB says:

    Could I just thank LBG for the previous fine post. I was a bit rude and neglected to do so in my comment yesterday.

    LB, that is a really fine post that covers a variety of angles and conceptual ideas. One of the most sensible and telling comments I have read in the last few days was a tweet by a Man City supporter. I am not sure where I saw it. If anyone can find it and put it up feel free. I think it may have been used as the basis of a post on a different blog I found on NN yesterday.

    In a nutshell he was basically backing Arsenal and Emery and taking a swipe at the various pundits, media outlets and blogs that were indicating we were in a crisis. He felt we were in much the same position as them when Guardiola arrived in trying to implement new playing methods that, in the long run, would elevate the team.

    He then pointed out that we had the most difficult start out of any team in addition to having a with new manager and that we still had 2 wins from 4, and were not far away from a draw or potential win against Chelsea. With these factors and that we have scored 8 goals in 4 games he stated that anyone who took the line of this being a club in crisis was thick.

    I am personally one that does draw a parallel with Guardiola’s first few months and what Emery is trying to implement LB. I do feel we will tread a very similar pathway to them and feel Emery can succeed as Guardiola has in taking us to a new level once players have adapted or been replaced if they can’t adapt.

    Without dismissing the financial clout of City I have never felt it was the most important factor in where they were last year compared to where we were. I still feel that the newer more modern coaching strategies trump the outright spending figure, and will stick my head on the chopping block to suggest that any big club with reasonable spending power (i.e us) can still compete with the silly spenders for the big prizes as long as the modern coaching factors are addressed.

    When you look back at the players City bought in the 2017 summer TW, and then look at how they mostly lined up with their strongest first 11, it was apparent to me that the core ingredient of their first 11 were the same players from the previous season. In many ways the new additions primarily added squad depth rather than a seismic impact on their first 11, yet City still made that quantum leap.

    There was no marquee 1st team signing like a Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar. If the core of the team was the same as the previous season and they still made that jump, for me it indicates that Guardiola’s coaching methods were now taking effect, and that this was by far the bigger factor over total expenditure.

    There is an argument that every player City buy is overpriced by 30% so the real value of each player and the squad in total is actually lower than the sum total. For me City’s current footballing level is down to (hypothetically) 80% coaching and 20% spending. Their total expenditure was high but I have always felt that, to a degree, it is artificially high because clubs just know they can hold out for over the top prices with City and that they will just pay it rather than miss out on a player they feel they need.

    I am looking forward to seeing where Unai can take us in the next 2 years, and 4 games in is not a realistic time frame to form a dismissive opinion on his methods.

  15. Rasp says:

    Morning all, thanks for yet another fine post LB.

    I’m all for playing it out from the back if … 1. The goalkeeper is competent … and 2. … if on occasion, we can move the ball forward (one touch passing) at pace and be posing a threat to the oppositions goal in seconds.

    I am not a fan of the slow methodical build up. It makes parking the bus easy and leaves us vulnerable to the counter when we all push up high.

    I am trusting that Emery is being patient, and that he will stick to his game plan and eventually find the players to make it work … even if that means leaving big names on the bench.

    I hear that he gave up on his game plan at PSG due to player pressure … and soon after lost the dressing room … he won’t want that to happen again.

    He has to play Auba and Laca together. They love playing together, pretty much every other position on the pitch should be up for grabs. If players in the current squad want it, they must fight for it and adapt if they can … if they don’t … goodbye!

  16. LBG says:

    Chas and Micky around 0715
    Many thanks chaps. All clear now! As soon as I saw Star Wars, switched off. Still proud to have never watched one!
    GoonerB 0956 Praise and thanks from you sir, makes me feel all tingly!
    LB – by far the most interesting and entertaining Post of the week. Not only do we not do relegation, but we are cerebral in our assessment of all things Arsenal.

  17. Maxwell says:

    Thank you for raising the issue of steady progress. Step by step climbs the hill, and all that. It allows me to comment on a cheering observation I have made on the very subject.

    For years I have been irritated, and occasionally spitting feathers, at the way opponents come into the back of Arsenal players, leading with their forearms and knees, not sufficiently to commit an obvious foul, but enough to unbalance the player and disrupt his control. Well, blow me! What have I started seeing from our guys? Just this technique – which I seem to remember was one of the first changes Guardiola made at MCFC.

    Next, the matter of fast breaks: for some time, this has been one of our greatest weaknesses, when our all-out attacks break down. Well, stap me vittles! Did I or did I not see four of our troops take one for the team against Cardiff, receiving cheap yellow cards for tugs and trips to prevent a quick transition? OK, you could argue, and I would agree, that Cardiff should have received at least as many cautions as we did, but what the Hell! That’s not the point, which is Emery is introducing a new savvy quality – and I for one LOVE it.

    Whatever changes we see next, I’m already happy that progress is being made: onwards and upwards, chaps!

  18. chas says:

  19. chas says:

  20. mickydidit89 says:

    Ok Lads, check this out

    The middle pic Chas added to the LB post

    Study carefully and you can understand Cech’s confused state of mind.

    In his head he has Unai’s words of “short pass, Petr, short pass” and yet on the field of battle he has Sokratis to his left clearly yelling “hoof the fucker Petr..NOW”, while to his right he has Bell, hands in pockets, not wanting anything to do with the lunacy unfolding.

    Meanwhile, with one Blue Bird inches away and another homing in on the only other Arsenal option, Mustafi, he can see the useless German pointing to THE most dangerous place Petr could possible put the ball.

    In short, Petr can only disobey the boss or do something utterly ludicrous

  21. RC78 says:

    I really think that the GK should use his brains more on when to play from the back and when to play long. Playing from the back requires also a certain discipline from our defenders and defensive mid (providing options that are not dangerous) so if the GK sees no viable option, just play long and keep the goal safe.

  22. mickydidit89 says:

    Kind of agree RC

    My line is this: Cech has been playing the role of glove puppet his entire life, and rather well if I may say so, therefore perhaps the best advice the boss could give would be let him do it his way 🙂

  23. RC78 says:

    They know the safe option. If he can play back, then he should. If not, play long. They shouldn’t overthink it.

  24. TotalArsenal says:

    Masterful post, LB.

  25. LB says:

    Hi Total

    I am slightly embarrassed by that but thank you.

  26. LB says:

    “hoof the fucker Petr..NOW”,


  27. LB says:

    I know it was written with a smile, as I am writing now with a smile but I have been trying to think how to explain why I have five road bikes or as they used to be called when I was a kid, racing bikes.

    There is a humourous equation that we cyclists apply: the formula for how many road bike you should have is N+1. That’s to say that whatever the number you have you will always want one more.

    Following that someone came up with the even more humourous equation for the number of bikes you should have which is X-1; that’s to say you should have as many as you can but one less than makes your wife leave you and therefore she becomes your X.

    The reality probably is that it is understandable to think of it as being greedy to have five bikes, certainly, if you think of a bike as a mode of transport to get you from A to B but for us that is not the case, they are more sports equipment or I could go further as I do and call them works of art.

    They are reasonably well of people’s toys, rich people have Porches and very rich people have yachts.

    Just for perspective I would expect to pay £15,000 for my dream road bike.

    PS, there is another post in drafts, it is not time sensitive.

    The Mrs has just returned so I will be going a bit more quiet in the near future and stupidly I am on a flight and will miss Newcastle.

  28. GoonerB says:

    From a tactical aspect playing it out from the back seems to be the thing that the top teams do now. Perhaps Emery accepts that some short term issues with it will be outweighed by how the team looks once we are getting it right. If you don’t start the process and attempt to perfect it then perhaps you are placing a permanent ceiling on the teams potential and are accepting always being 2nd best.

    I like your explanations as to what Emery is trying to achieve with this playing out from the back LB and there is likely merit in them. I always thought that the purpose was more simply to move from back to front with possession football rather than rely on balls bouncing around out of control and giving the opposition a 50% chance of regaining possession from a long ball.

    Once it is finely tuned with everyone understanding how to do it, and also having the technical ability to implement it, a good side should be able to move it quite quickly from back to front and at the same time pull the opposition team around more and create spaces on the pitch from the variety of different angled passes, rather than afford the opposition the opportunity to contest a 50-50 aerial ball and then have a 50% chance to be first to the second ball.

    This largely negates any advantage we may have in technical ability and allows them a more equal footing just by employing strong physical players and fast athletes even though they may be lacking in the more technical areas.

    I think your point about the old way of playing it wide to Bellerin vs having the CB’s go wide indicates a key tactical rethink, and is the system I believe City use frequently. I was also just over in Scandinavia and watched one of my wife’s nephews play. He is 15 and at a good academy level out there, and I noticed this is what they were being coached to do as well.

    I think the key difference is that the new way opens up more options for a forward pass. Arsene used to talk about green lights and red lights with green lights being passing options for the player on the ball. Arsene always wanted his teams to create more green lights.

    Not having had (and still not having) natural wide playing midfielders mostly all of our width, from back to front, has recently come via the FB’s. When we try and play it out from the back with Bellerin as the wide recipient he has no real option down the line and if the infield options are cut out or look dodgy he goes sideways to the CB’s, and we often end up with a period of lateral passes between the defenders.

    If both CB’s move wide to the edge of the area (where you see the GB is in the 2nd picture) and the FB’s can go right to the touchline but in a more advanced position relative to the CB’s then (if my geometry is correct) a kind of isoceles trapezoid shape is formed between the defenders.

    That gives a forward passing option (for the wide receiving CB) to the flanks as well as any infield option the midfielders may offer, so we have more forward passing green lights. In addition it makes it more difficult for the opposition to cover all the passing options. The keeper becomes an emergency pass back option if no good forward options were on or it needs to be switched to the other side.

    Could all be tactical bolleux though and have nothing to do with what I have said 🙂

  29. chas says:

    Thanks, LB, so we have a post for tomorrow. ☺

    Only 7 more to find to fill the interlull.

    Where are you flying a week Saturday? Or is that coming back? ☺

  30. fred1266 says:

  31. fred1266 says:

  32. mickydidit89 says:



    Okedoke, from hence forwards I promise to refrain from referring to your machines as either bicycles or indeed contraptions 🙂

    Bloody love the X-1. Genius

  33. mickydidit89 says:

    Oh, and not an excuse but rather for context, I thought I was exceding the boundaries of “reasonable expenditure” when I pushed the boat out and splashed £150 on my ex-contraption

    Maybe that’s why it kept trying to kill me

  34. chas says:

    My bike cost £35 second hand in 1995. I was done.

    It’s a Raleigh Alaska mountain bike that’s made of cast iron and has never seen a mountain in its life.

    It does get used on a daily basis in the summer when I’m marking, mostly on cycle paths.

    I’m a fair weather cyclist so it doesn’t get used if it’s pishing down (it only rained twice this 8 week session). 🙂

  35. chas says:

  36. chas says:

    Tony Adams, thick as pig shit, living in the past and a terrible manager.
    So Tony, what do you think?

  37. chas says:

  38. chas says:

  39. LBG says:

    Yes TONY, even Stuart thinks you are an idiot!
    Why don’t we get George Graham in to coach them. He can start paying back our £240000. Stick to modelling glasses.

  40. GoonerB says:

    I still have great feelings of Tony as a legend of a player, but he has exhibited these life on Mars opinions frequently. He has nothing on his CV that suggests he can manage a top modern club effectively. At some point he will bemoan why he is not utilised more at Arsenal.

  41. chas says:

    We have another offering from the Imelda Marcos of the bike world. 🙂


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