So where are we with Emery after three quarters of a season having passed? It is probably easier to reflect on this as we are undoubtedly in the ascendancy right now and finishing third looks like a realistic possibility. This might all sound a bit rich coming from someone who only a few weeks ago voted sixth in a poll when asked where Arsenal would finish at the end of this season.
So what changed? Well, my reason for voting sixth was that by losing Bellerin we had lost any form of thrust from the right side which made it too easy for teams to double up on the left which in effect nullified both wings. Solutions were attempted to be found and Lichtsteiner, as good as a stop gap that he is, was never going to seriously to be able to hold it together for the amount of games that he has been asked to play and Jenkinson, as much as we love him for being one of ours, was equally never going to be the solution.
The answer, of course, has been Maitland-Niles (cons) just when it looked like he had blown his opportunity, back he came with a second half performance against ManU worthy of an England call up. His penetration down the right stretches the opposition’s defence giving Kolasinac just that bit more space to operate in which he uses to great effect.
The return of Mkhitaryan being able to play in front of AMN gives further strength to our right as well as my explanation. So I think it fair to say that Emery is a man who can find solutions but it is the bigger picture that is starting to intrigue me. I find myself asking questions like: was the ascendancy at this particular time planned. Did Emery have the luxury of first time objectivity at the beginning of the season and plan to tackle the tiring demands of EPL from the outset. I think it right to say that energy level wise our players are looking bright eyed and bushy tailed; Emery has cleverly rotated the midfield of Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi, the latter being the fallow field at the moment; he has certainly and purposely rotated the attack to such a point where Lacazette accepts his shortened role and gone are the earlier season tantrums and if that isn’t enough – there is Ozil.
Was Mesut’s lengthy Christmas break intentional? He certainly still looks fresh now. I don’t really believe it was intentional, I think it was a case of simply making the necessary managerial adjustments to get him to understand what was what in the brave new world post AW and I also think again it is fair to say that it has worked. Ozil is onside, he has now brought into the idea of what is going on and that a full ninety minutes of uninterrupted game time is going to be few and far between and that now seems to be fine evidenced by Mesut’s new found determination while playing.
Ramsey is, of course, another who has been used sparingly but effectively, in fact I think if you can go round the whole team you will notice clever rotation, ok the changes to the back line have been mainly forced upon Emery so it is probably fairer to describe that as fire fighting rather than strategic rotation but again I think it only fair to say that the fire fighting has been well handled.
This whole idea might make a bit more sense if you look at other teams: spuds being the best example of having their first eleven ground into the dirt with results reflecting their fatigue. Chelsea are in a similar boat, there is way too much reliance on Hazard with the inevitable consequences occurring. ManU have less to worry about because “Ollie is at the wheel” raises eyebrows…….
No, things do look good right now and I suspect that I will not be the only one now and in the near future who starts to dare to believe that this may not be luck: this might just be the very clever vision and strategic deployment of troops from a certain Señor Emery from the outset — keep it going Unai.