Unai knows

It was interesting to watch Unai Emery’s reaction to Pepe’s match winning goal on Thursday, not a fist pumping jump for joy, not a huge sigh of relief, just a half smile into the camera from a man who might be a little bit more aware of what is going on than some of us might think.

Emery is tasked with getting us into the top four this season and we are a long, long way off from failing to achieve that goal and he more than most is aware of that fact and as such rightly retains a calm outward appearance. How do I know that, look at his expression when Pepe’s goal flies in; he knows what is about to come from that player, am I sure, of course I am not, but I do believe that what I am writing is more likely to be true than not.

We have been poor recently capped off with the debacle at Bramwell lane, juries were out, juries were in, and people were ready to change Emery there and then.

My feelings were that things are taking longer to slot into place than I was expecting and by that I mean we can all remember the excitement of the signings in the close season and how high expectations were. I kept on saying to myself that he should not be judged until he has the use of his full squad and I still believe that — will our absent two full backs magically make a massive difference? Err yes they will and will do so in the not too distant future and that brings me to the point that I have been holding off for as long as I can: the attack.

We have not just been firing on two of the three cylinders, we have been firing on one. Aubamayang has been doing the best he can with no help from his other attacking team mates: expecting Saka to shoulder the responsibility of scoring match winning goals is too bigger ask at the moment but the biggest disappointment has been none other than Pepe.

Well the worm has finally turned and I for one now expect a huge improvement in our fortunes now that Pepe has officially joined Arsenal Football Club, evidenced by his two lazar guided free kicks against Vitoria. The Ivorian’s confidence should now be sky high and as such the goals should now start to flow; we could also see Lacazette replace Saka as was the case in the earlier part of the season which worked well, certainly better than in recent past and that could give us the much hoped for and eagerly anticipated three pronged clinical attack.

The addition is that I am far from writing Saka off; he is more than welcome to join the party and if it is he who retains his place in the starting trio because of performances that merit his selection then all well and good, the same goes for Martinelli who is probably the one new signing who has surpassed our expectations; the young Brazilian has far better close control than Lacazette but is obviously no where near ousting Aubamayang.

The peripheral stuff is that the club are obviously doing everything they can to get Ozil’s wages off of the books; he is not playing in the Europa Cup to avoid being cup tied which would reduce, even further, the small pool of clubs that might be interested in signing him. With a solution finally found to the issue that some at the club seem to have with him, it should increase the possibility of more signings that have been hinted at for January and I simply do not believe that Emery cannot see the issue in midfield, an area that I expect him to prioritise and if you doubt that look at how ruthlessly he has dealt with Ozil and Mustafi and as such I for one see no reason to believe he would not do the same to anyone else in the much maligned midfield if he could get the right upgrade.

All in all I think we still have a lot to look forward to; the pegs are starting to fall into their holes and hmmm, how can I finish this? I know, lets just remember Pepe’s two superb free kicks and purrrrrrrrrrrrr.



36 Responses to Unai knows

  1. Moffitt says:

    You kid yourself . Vitoria were better than us and we were very very lu ky to win and would of been lucky to drawmo

  2. Moffitt says:

    You kid yourself . Vitoria were better than us and we were very very lu ky to win and would of been lucky to drawmo

  3. Morning

    Thank you LB for the post.

    If you’re right that the club are trying to get a move for Ozil and that Emery is on the case to solve the lack of creativity in mid-field in January then I’m all for sticking with him.

    I think in Guendouzi we have a player who can drive the mid-field forward (in the short term) and if the other talented players can recognise this and make themselves available then there may be more pegs dropping into place. In order for that to work I feel Emery does need to drop Xhaka otherwise he and Guendouzi just get in each other’s way or play someone as a deep lying midfielder – Guendouzi can’t do both.

    A problem for Unai to find a solution to.

  4. LB says:


    Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

    I don’t believe we were lucky at all, Emery gave the younger players their chance which is good right and then slowly increased the quality of the team by way of substitutions until we were clearly superior which gave us what we needed to go onto win.

    Job done, great goals, happy days……….

  5. Mike says:

    I absolutely disagree with all of the above me tioned arguments. The problem in this team is not the missing players, it is the manager and his tactics. Look at Leicester and What Rodgers did there in less than a year. Than compare it to the mess that Emery has made out of our team. Freezing out players like Torreira, Özil, or a fit Holding, Bellerin or Tierney from the important matches and instead sticking with players who failed to impress in the premier league for 9 games in a row is pure stubborness and stupitidy. We are worse than we have ever been under Wenger. Drawing against a bottom-of-the-table Watford, deservedly loosing to a newly promoted Sheffield side or luckily winning against Burnley or Aston Villa at home is a disgrace. This is not where this club should be. Without Aubameyang we would be in relegation zone. We are weaker in attack and somehow managed to get weaker at the back too. We are in a steady decline and Emery needs to be sacked asap. The stats are against him and the football we play is abysmal. There is no beautiful angle to look at this mess.

  6. Rasp says:

    Thanks LB, my jury has adjourned after reading your post.

    I desperately wanted Unai to succeed and there have been many times when I felt he was changing things for the better. The collapse at the end of last season and poor showing in the EL final balanced my view … how could those players not lift themselves when it really counted?

    It seemed that the weak underbelly we’d been characterised by in recent years was still fundamentally there.

    There is no doubt that Unai’s history shows that he has always had a problem lifting his teams for difficult games. Everyone at the club is still learning and Unai will have to change some things about the way he interacts with the players if he is going to take us to the next level.

    I want him to succeed. Like you, I think Pepe could be a major influence from here on. It is the mentality of the team that also needs addressing. If the other players on the pitch had Guendouzi’s attitude we could be challenging for the title.

    Our very best players have the right attitude … the ones that don’t (Xhaka) should be consigned to the bench IMO.

  7. RC78 says:

    Leno – Holding, Luiz – Xhaka – Laca

    I m sorry but Xhaka needs out in this spine

    – Bellerin and Tierney need more time to get back to a high level on a consistent basis but they re decent FB
    – Chambers should be given a chance at DM
    – Douzi is our B2B and I think that he needs to be paired with either Torreira or Willock or Ceballos depending on opposition
    – Pepe will find his form, the quality is there
    – Auba is Auba 👌

    How can Emery improve our cohesiveness offensively and defensively? We can play in a 352 or we can play in a 4321 or a 4231 or 442 but the point is to be hard to break and good going forward. I felt that last year and when Ramsey was fit to play, we had some really good sequences going forward and I don’t see that as often this year so…

    I think Emery has a good squad to tinker with and he needs to find balance, structure and to give the right instructions. Rodgers is indeed doing a better job with a lesser squad and so is… Lampard so that s no good…

    I am happy to be patient till the end of 2019 but if our form is not better by then, then Emery might need to feel some pressure from the board to do better with the squad

    Emery knows more than us but he needs to figure his sh%t out now and give the team an identity and a shape that produces results

  8. LB says:

    Well that livened things up…………….

    Thanks for your comment Mike.

    I shall respond.

    The crux of your comment seems to be that you do not feel that the club should be where it is and that is Emery’s fault and he should he replaced now. Please correct me if I am wrong?

    I am obviously not happy with where the club is right now, I doubt that the board is happy right now but as I say above my position is that until he has the a full squad available to him I shall hold fire. A fit Bellerin and Tierney will make a difference, a confident Pepe will also make a difference, how could it possibly not?

    If I were to compare this situation to Liverpool I would say that you would have to remove Sala and their two extremely effective full backs to get a reasonable comparison. They would suffer as have we, but again I see no reason why we should not expect to see improvements for the better.

  9. LB says:

    “Emery knows more than us but he needs to figure his sh%t out now and give the team an identity and a shape that produces results” (RC)

    Couldn’t agree more with this.

  10. LB says:

    A word on the midfield.

    Did Xhaka play on Thursday? No he did not.

    And what did we get?

    We got a chance to see how good Torriera was at playing as a pure DM, not bad but not great, is this Emery’s fault?

    We also got to see the alternatives that so many have been calling out for. Play Maitland-Niles in his rightful midfield role, well you got it and he was poor.

    Give Willock a try there is can’t be worse than Xhaka, well you saw it for your selves — it can. They are both sub Xhaka and this is important to realising that Xkaka is not a favourite he is just the best we have at the moment.

    Guendouzi came on and he and Torreira were better certainly Guendouzi anyway.

    But the main point of this comment is to point out that Emery is trying to find a solution to the midfield; in fact, I would say that he tried every combination on Thursday that anyone on here has put forward.

    You wanted Xhaka out, you got it.
    You wanted AMN in the midfield, you got it.
    You wanted to give youth a chance, well witness Willock.
    You wanted Torreira as a DM, you got it.

    Is there anyone here who would argue that any one of those deserves to start on Sunday in the role they played on Thursday.

    Sadly not, so Xhaka it is until an upgrade can be found.

  11. RC78 says:

    The main issue is that Xhaka makes the odd mistakes, does not add much going forward and his inclusion in the team is not helping Douzi. We need to put Douzi in a good position to perform.

    I agree that AMN was poor, Willock too and Torreira was just ok. But what about putting Chambers or Luiz in DM? Or playing in a 352 or 343, we need to try smt new to be more solid and incisive. We ought to be given our team

  12. LB says:


    I like the way that Chambers has been rewarded by being given a starting position for his good work, although, with the return of Bellerin he could find himself replaced. It might be then that the idea of Chambers playing as a DM might be finally be explored.

  13. Gööner In Exile says:

    I don’t like the thought of playing players out of position, so until we have explored all combinations I don’t particularly want to see Chambers or Luiz in DM.

    I missed the first half on Thursday so didn’t see AMN, from LBGs Match report he was on the right of midfield, not sure that’s his position, a winger he is not, defensive midfielder maybe, what I want to see from AMN is a little bit of fire.

    I think the midfield is about balance, Torreira on arrival seemed to be better than he is now? Lack of game time, not enjoying it, not understanding his role?

    Like RC I see Guendouzzi and Torreira as a good combination but it won’t come good in one game.

    As for Pepe I’d say we shouldn’t expect any less like Emery, do think keeper made a rick for his first but his second was a good strike. It needs to be consistent though, so hopefully he can continue into EPL games.

    As for the manager and overall performances I guess the problem we have as fans is the difficulty we are having overcoming “weaker” opponents the EPL does not allow for a controlled game played at a snails pace.

  14. RockyLives says:

    Thanks LB

    Well done for a nicely argued proposition that goes counter to the prevailing mood among a lot of fans.

    I can’t say I’m totally convinced and my doubts about UE have not gone away, but as Rasp intimated, you’ve given us food for thought.

    Mind you, I can’t agree that Mustafi is evidence of UE’s ruthlessness. UE persevered with him for game after game last season as the howls of dissatisfaction from fans became louder and louder and as the mistakes piled higher and higher, costing points left, right and particularly centre.

    When it seemed obvious to everyone that Mustafi was a liability, UE defended him and kept on playing him.

    It was only in the wake of our dismal late-season capitulation that Emery ran out of wiggle room and felt obliged to slaughter some sacrificial lambs, mainly Mustafi but also Ozil.

  15. LB says:

    Thanks Rocky

    Maybe I need my memory jogging but wasn’t it a case last season that Emery again didn’t have a choice but to play Mustafi once Holding got injured and then when Koscielny finally came good Mustafi was out and has remained out to date. Seems decisive to me if my memory is correct.

    As for defending him, well, what else can managers do in that situation?

    But after all that I hope I am not coming across as someone who thinks that Emery has done enough to deserve all our backing, far from it, and again I point to what I wrote above, the man is tasked with getting us into the top four: do it, he retains his job, fail and we will see a replacement.

    I read something last week that I had forgotten and that is that Emery is not a choice of the current board he is a Gazidis appointment, the inference from that is that the current powers that be will have less concern about replacing him that had he been their own appointment.

  16. LB says:

    The problem with AMN playing defensive midfield is that he makes more schoolboy errors than Xhaka, there was another howler on Thursday.

  17. LBG says:

    Thank you for your efforts and as you say, you certainly livened things up!!
    Reluctantly, and unusually for your comments, I have to challenge a number of your suggestions regarding Thursday night. As I said in my post, Torreira did not play as a holding defensive midfielder and instead pushed continually forward on the right hand side( more than once he was the player most furthest forward), leaving Willock to stew in his own juice. A juice and a position that he has never been put in before and one that I for one, never considered him for. The consequence was he was closed down often by two players very quickly with no outlet ball available, and was blamed for dangerous turnover ball. Willock should be played as an an attacking midfield player preferably centrally for me and at the head of a diamond. And in that position he is competing with Smith-Rowe ( and at one point, Ainsley M-N, but no longer as currently he has completely lost his way), and Mesut, if he ever plays again. A M-N by the way is also no more a right winger ( his position on Thursday) than he is a right back. (With Torreira, AM-N are the two players most “corrupted” by Emery’s tactics.)
    I so want Emery to shape the team around a triangle in front of the back four made up of Torreira holding ( told absolutely NOT to push forward) with Ouzi left and Ceballos right in front of him.
    If then the insistence is three up front, one from Pepe/Martinelli/Saka are all good, talented options, with Laca and Aubang. But three up front “thins” the midfield, (THE AREA EMERY MUST GET RIGHT, AND STICK WITH CONSISTENTLY), and, in my opinion, compromises the efficiency of Laca and especially Aubang who need to be close and play off each other.
    As I have also said, I have given up on Emery using Luiz in the Torreira position, and although Chambers could be tried there and at least would have the discipline to ” hold”, I believe he should be given a chance at CB alongside Holding.
    This leaves the full backs. Given shape and some support occasionally in front of him, Tierney is going to be an invaluable asset for us for many years to come. Hector is currently lost to his position particularly defensively and for much of the time going forward, and although I hope for improvement especially in confidence, wonder if it will come.
    For me Xhaka, Sokratis, Kolasinac Mustafi, and to some extent even Luiz, are the ponderous symptoms of our current malaise, and most need to be ditched. Emery seems to me, contrary perhaps to your view LB, to have confused himself ( and several of his players) as to the way we need to play in the Premier League. Perhaps, in fact, he is trying to play in a way that will not work!! Time will tell. In the meantime, I want shape, discipline and solidity to be the foundation on which Aubang, Laca, Pepe, Martinelli, Saka can show their skills.

    Apologies for diatribe.

  18. RockyLives says:

    You may be right about having to play Mustafi last season. My memory is certainly far from faultless!

  19. LB says:


    Thanks for taking time to answer.

    The comments above demonstrate that some like to focus on the negatives of Thursday and others like me like to focus on the positives of which I saw several.

    I think Emery uses these games to experiment with different formulas and why not, makes sense to me.

    He is trying to find a role for AMN but is failing, is this failure Emery’s fault or is AMN not really suited to any one particular role. As you say he is not a LB he is not a RB he is not a RW and every time he goes near the DM he makes Xhaka look meticulous, best demonstrated by conceding possession in his usual lackadaisical way which almost put Vitoria two up. Right now it looks like he does not have a future at Arsenal and that is not Emery’s fault. In fact I would say that Emery as done everything that he can to make the opposite a reality and doesn’t seem to be giving up.

    I think we can agree that Torriera was played as a DM it’s just that he did not stick to the script, if that is not agreed then Willock and Torreira were played side by side and tasked with vertically patrolling the midfield that is to say when one moves forward the other covers, perhaps an experiment, one was capable of defending on the the night the other not.

    I do like the idea of trying Torreira with Ceballos and Guendouzi with Torreira told to stay back and just play the DM role. This will work fine until we need to push forward in search of a goal, which if you think about it is what happened on Thursday.

    Three will be played up front when suited other times obviously not.

  20. Aaron says:

    LB, playing everyone everywhere is not trying to figure out a system logically- too many moving parts.

    LBG, agreed on many of your ideas. I have said before our mix is horribly wrong- any team with Xhaka in it, with other elephant types.

    All the stats say we are worse everywhere, attack, defense and midfield. Yet, Emery needs more time to find an identity, whereas his teams have never really had an identity- He is a cup manager for goodness sakes, one off games where individuals like Auba solve your problems for you.

    Pepe was fortunate for those 2 goals, and very good they were, but remember Henry and Bergkamp took some time to bed in and Pepe could very well goal without another goal for another 10 games.

    We shall see what Emery comes up with, but if he loses this one at home, the knives will be a sharpening’.

  21. LB says:

    Mike seeing as I’m ill and have nothing to do but blog I thought I would answer your comment above the little further.

    “I absolutely disagree with all of the above mentioned arguments.” (Mike)

    This made me look and my post again and see what it was that you felt so strongly about. Here is the start of every single one of my paragraphs.

    “It was interesting to watch Unai Emery’s reaction to Pepe’s match winning goal on Thursday”

    Really you don’t agree with that? Prey tell why?

    “Emery is tasked with getting us into the top four this season.”

    Really again, you don’t agree with that either?

    “We have not just been firing on two of the three cylinders” (the attack)

    I would love to know why you disagree with that?

    “Well the worm has finally turned” (Pepe)

    Did you enjoy his goals?

    “The addition is that I am far from writing Saka off”

    Have you?

    “The peripheral stuff is that the club are obviously doing everything they can to get Ozil’s wages off of the books.”

    Fact or not?

    “All in all I think we still have a lot to look forward to”

    If you don’t agree with that then I don’t know what to suggest.

    That is the start of every paragraph and everyone is positive.

    Oh BR and Chas please come back. I miss cats sliding across the screen in the morning so much.

  22. LB says:


    The knives are already sharpening, if we lose tomorrow, he will get his throat cut.

  23. LB says:

    Aaron seeing as I am in this kind of mood.

    “Playing everyone everywhere is not trying to figure out a system logically.” (Aaron)

    If you think the system was random on Thursday then you are missing the big picture. Everyone of the starting line up was logical as were the substitutions, evidenced by the victory that it turned out to be.

  24. Aaron says:

    LB, you are taking a great degree of latitude into your interpretation.

    Emery, placed many players in new positions that were unfamiliar to them when considering who they were lining up with. Surely you can see that??

    That entire dang team had not played together as a unit for even 1 minute together the entire season. Look at that damn lineup again. Seriously?? How the heck were the players supposed to know who is going where and when? Cone drills….F me…..

    But, knowing how Emery likes to tinker, we shall see NO changes to the lineup on Sunday.

  25. LB says:

    “Emery, placed many players in new positions that were unfamiliar to them when considering who they were lining up with. Surely you can see that??”

    I agree Aaron but it doesn’t mean that is wasn’t logical.

    I have said that my guess is that Emery uses these games to experiment, and why not, it makes sense, we won, the manager fulfilled his job on that evening.

  26. Aaron says:

    To which I say, I agree with you!

  27. Aaron says:

    Yet, concluding his placement of the players in their respective positions may be logical, does not mean as a system, which
    Emery does not possess, it was logical.

  28. RockyLives says:

    Great discussion today. Well done LB.

  29. I’m on grandma duty this evening and tomorrow morning, any chance of someone cobbling together a pre-match please?

  30. LB says:

    If we win the manager has been logical 🙂

  31. RockyLives says:

    I’ll put something together Peaches

  32. RockyLives says:

    Pre-match in drafts (although I don’t know how to arrange the team line-up nicely).

  33. Gööner In Exile says:

    It certainly is interesting reading the comments, knowing where LB sits (assuming he’s hasn’t moved seats from quite a few seasons ago) I know he will get a better view of performances than me sitting at home watching the telly, and that includes the pundits in a studio a few miles away watching the same pictures as me, you just don’t see the overall patterns of play.

    I often go back to that “presentation” the one which Gazidis intimated got UE the job..the one where he explained how he was going to improve every player in the squad…..admittedly this isn’t the same squad but have we seen improvement from those that are still around, as LB says AMN is going backwards, but what about Mustafi, Xhaka, Ozil, PEA, Laca? Maybe I’ll give him Kolasniac, and Chambers although the latter needed time after an injury lay off. And then those early days of “We’ve got our Arsenal back”.

    Someone earlier mentioned Brendan Rodgers, a man I didn’t think I’d ever sit here thinking about as Arsenal manager, Klopp sure, Guardiola without doubt, maybe even Poch, but Rodgers? As I sit looking at our squad and even the current available squad I ask myself is it on paper better than Leicester’s first team? If so then maybe I’ve been doing Rodgers an injustice, and that’s why so many questions remain around UE, and more will be raised when you look at what an inexperienced manager like Lampard is achieving with Chelsea and their current first XI.

  34. Rasp says:

    Morning all …

    … New post …

  35. GoonerB says:

    Thanks LB, indeed your post has livened things up 😀

    I agree in your feelings that some things will improve with the addition of Tierney and Bellerin. I would like to see them form a strong partnership with the wing forwards ahead of them and if Pepe can kick on from here that partnership on the right flank could become more prolific.

    I think over a course of games we would see Torreura is the better option at the base of the midfield and would give us greater balance. I also though would have tried either Luiz or Chambers at holding midfield.

    I am not sure whether GIE thought trying those players there constituted them being out of position but Luiz won an EPL title in that position and Chambers got Fulhams player of the year in that position last season.

    Why not give it a go. In many ways I would argue it is not Xhakas position either so Emery is continually playing him out of position anyway.

    In many ways Emery’s CV was that of a good manager before arriving and it was an opportunity for him to show he had another level in his managerial locker. Right now he doesn’t look like he has that bit extra in him and is not right for us moving forwards.

    No point in calling for his head right now but I hope the club make a swift decision if needs be. The games between now and the new year are enough to assess his credentials with an improved direction and style being a must as well as clocking up the points. Not a long time but with the players he has one and a half seasons should allow for his ultimate vision to take form even if not quite fully perfected.

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