Guardiola and Emery – a Fair Comparison?

September 7, 2018

Two wins out of four is clearly not the best start but not the worst either. The last two wins have given Emery a bit of stability; his own way of doing things is coming into focus and as such he is now starting to be able to stand on his own two feet. But this obviously was not the case after the first two games; headlines declaring that Arsenal are in crisis were appearing as frequently as daffodils in spring.

What surprised me at the time was that there were people outside of Arsenal who attempted to come to Emery’s aid. Supporters from Man City and even Gary Neville on Sky were not slow in coming forward to defend our man in charge, all insisting that he should stand by his principles and be given time to implement them.

Among the majority of Arsenal faithful Unai Emery seems to have been already given a pass this season for many reasons but standing close to the top is the reason that it took Guardiola a season before he was really able to make an impact.

Like drowning sailors scrambling for life boats I can only assume that the Arsenal supporters who grabbed onto this comparison after our first two games did so in the hope that similar things would happen to us in Unai Emery’s second season.

Guardiola has been elevated to demigod status for the way he got his team to play last season. Arsenal supporters who really should know better have sung his praises pointing to how he resisted buying marquee names such as Ronaldo, Neymar or Messi and yet somehow managed to put together a strong team with an amazing work ethic capable of winning the league all of which demonstrated what a great coach he really is.

Utter Tosh

“Manchester City have taken their summer spending to more than £200m with the signing of Benjamin Mendy from Monaco and increased their total outlay in the transfer market since Pep Guardiola took charge 13 months ago to £385m.” (The Guardian 24/7/17)

The man spent 200 million at the beginning of last season. Two Hundred Million!

“City confirmed over the weekend the £26.5m switch from Real Madrid of Danilo, who is expected to provide cover for the first-choice full-backs Mendy and the £45m signing from Tottenham Hotspur, Kyle Walker. They will line up alongside other expensive arrivals including the centre-back John Stones, signed last season for £47m, and the £34.9m goalkeeper Ederson from Benfica.” (Guardian 24/7/17)

Pep says City hasn’t the cash for a quadruple – January 2018

Money talks, ok there was the Leicester league win but surely that is now understood that it was a one off; yes, I would take one of those one offs at any point of Unai’s tenure but I am not holding my breath.

I certainly intend to stand by Emery regardless of almost any outcome this season but the comparison with Guardiola and the spending power he can call upon is laughable; the only thing that I see that they have in common is that they are both from the Iberian Peninsula and neither of them is Spanish.

A special thank you to GB for giving me something to bounce off of.

Written by LB

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Is a change of Playing Style required?

April 17, 2018

Problems at Arsenal based on player analysis and playing style analysis:-

Keeper:

This hasn’t traditionally been our big problem area over the last few seasons, so is not the right place to look to for our consistent failings. It may be that in the here and now a new keeper is needed with father time catching up with Cech and a lack of world class options behind him.

Central defenders:

A penchant for smaller central defenders Pep era Barcelona style doesn’t work with us. We are often out-muscled and don’t look anywhere near commanding enough in central defence. One smaller quicker CD is ok with the right partner but 2 at the same time??

If Kos had been paired with a Kompany / Sol Campbell type CD for the last few years we would have been a different animal. With his injuries Kos can’t be a 1st choice consideration all season anymore and the rest are more squad player quality and not 1st team quality (at least not yet with some of them). 2 new CD’s likely required but different types to what we have.

Full backs:

Had some decent options in the last few years, so again not the right place to see our main failings. The biggest problem with the FB’s has been that they largely become wingers for much of the game but in a poorly executed fashion (discipline wise). This is more a team style issue than player issue per se and is dictated in some ways by the midfield in front of them (see later).

Having said all this, there are player concerns potentially arising now. Monreal is getting on and is Kolasinac good enough to replace him? Bellerin has looked squad player standard for much of this season but you do feel he can sharpen up with the right coaching and advice.

Midfield:

Will look at this as a whole because outside of CD it is where our main problems are. Individually assessed we have a lot of good midfielders. Collectively they don’t gel. Why? This seems to come down to Arsene and his player preference. He seems to mainly only look for slightly slower, cultured ball playing, tippy tappy style CM’s and then just string 5 of them out in the bit between the midfield and striker.

This is a criticism that has been mooted by some of us on here for a few years, so is not a new consideration. Arsene doesn’t seem to value the specialist holding midfield role or the specialist winger / wing forward role in this 3rd era at Arsenal (pre Emirates move era, Emirates move austerity era, post austerity Emirates era).

What we end up with is a lack of pace or width and a lack of support to the striker leaving them often isolated. Hence we end up with 5 players who are all kind of in a laterally aligned set up looking for a forward pass to play but finding no pacy winger / wing forward to play a ball for them to run on to and a striker isolated with 2 CD’s on him. Result, tippy tappy sideways and backward passing or forcing a forward pass through a narrow central congested channel which is likely intercepted or more easily defended.

We fail regularly to stretch opposition defences and pull them around. Our width for the most parts seems to come from the FB’s stationed high up the pitch in the wing positions, but too often they receive the ball there statically rather than bursting forward on an overlap. This is mostly seen with park the bus teams where the FB’s just seem to be permanently stationed high up and the more dynamic overlap only seems to happen when we play a team we are able to use a counter-attacking strategy from deep with. We probably only need to keep 2 or 3 from the 4 when looking at Xhaka, Elneny, Ramsey and Wilshere, and free up space for 1 specialist HM and at least 1 specialist winger / wing forward (in the Robben / Sane mould).

Striker:

After his first year with us Giroud should have graduated to becoming a good back up option and something alternative from the bench to shake it up. He was never the type of striker that we should have been developing our play around. Playing with this type of striker as a 1st choice demanded a different way of playing that was to a large extent very non Arsenal (Wenger era) like. We should have been looking towards a quicker more mobile lethal front man and we stuck with the less mobile target man as our choice of play for far too long.

Having said that I didn’t want Ollie to go if we could have kept him. Having now recently recruited 2 of the types of strikers that we should have done a while back, we still don’t look right. Why? Well essentially we haven’t changed our set up to compliment the new different style of striker we now have, and are setting up the team behind them exactly the same as we did with Ollie, the  bigger slower target striker.

Pining for him and what he offered us as being the answer to our problems, is the wrong call for me. We failed regularly when we had him anyway. Our new strikers cannot be left isolated with 2 CD’s to deal with. They need to be mobile and be supported by other quick players to create space for them, and to fill the CF position when that striker has provided an outlet in the wide channels and has essentially become the supplier / creator. Arsene’s midfield combination preferences don’t allow for this.

Overall coaching and style:

I often think of Arsene as having changed what type of team he wanted when Pep’s Barcelona was in its pomp, and feel he contracted a kind of Barcapeperatippytappyitis, which still afflicts to this day. They were in a different league, with a collective of specific types of technical players, under a different manager that actually, despite the possession and attack focus of that side, was very disciplined and well coached. We are in a different league in a different era and don’t seem to bother with that extra attention to coaching detail that Guardiola did, and still does.

We look the most ill disciplined and poorly drilled out of all the big clubs and it has often been said that Arsene likes players to work it out for themselves. Over-coaching can, of course, also be an issue, so one doesn’t want to make it too regimented, but it would seem the mantra of the players working it out for themselves is quite easily trumped by coaches paying more attention to detail.

Should we be aiming for that Barca style or looking more towards our old blueprint of pace and power complimented by excellent technical players. I know which I prefer. We all love the idea of Wengerball, and being considered the most easy team on the eye, and being the club that develops the young precocious players the best, but in reality we are actually none of these anymore.

Wengerball is a nice memory from a bygone era and we are more often stale and boring in our football than off your seat excitement. A mere handful of games see us play good football from start to finish with the rest made up by flashes of excellent football in a game we have also looked equally poor in, or just a poor game from start to finish. Probably the middle one dominates in what we produce most frequently.

Our young players seem to be failing once introduced to 1st team environment. It is other clubs who are the ones that have the young players developing from precocious talent into top class talent, so that is another bragging right we have lost in reality.

The big question is does Arsene have either the will or the insight to change many or all of the factors that are stifling us? Do we think he will start to coach in more detail and / or allow other first team coaches to do more, for example Bould with the defence? Do we think he will look towards a more traditional commanding type of central defender? Do we think he will change his preferences for those types of CM’s he seems to love and shake the squad up, maybe looking towards different types of players, like pacey wide men and HM’s, that may compliment us more and give greater depth and balance to our team and performances?

This would require a harder edge in accepting some of the players identified by him are not quite what we needed afterall and then having that harder edge to move them on.

I tend to find myself answering no in all cases with these questions. I don’t see any evidence that Arsene wants to change the set up, style or type of coaching, or that he wants to identify a different style of player to those he has traditionally preferred in recent years. I also think he treats his players, the ones he identified and wanted, as if they are his own children and doesn’t really have it in him to move them on for something different. A new manager can more ruthlessly look at this situation and decide who stays, who goes, and who should come in without that personal attachment.

Things have just run their course. We can but hope for those 3 big displays that we know we have in us at times that may secure the EL for us. Win this and Arsene could walk away with his head held high at that point, and this should happen because the club needs a fresh and new approach with a touch more pragmatism, attention to detail and adaptability within it.

Written by GoonerB


Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners

February 25, 2018

4th Wembley Final in 5 years. It is a home game and we must approach it as a though we own the ground.

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My first attendance at a League Cup Final was as a youngster and I am still scarred by the event. Don Rogers scoring in the mud as lowly Swindon beat my heroes in a David and Goliath victory. The year before I watched the highlights of Dirty Leeds in black and white – I should point out that this was 7 years after Spurs last won the League 🙂

Today: Our away form is so disastrous that if Mr Wenger sets up his team to be conservative we are bolloxed; quite frankly this Arsenal defence is not good enough to halt the City attack. So, the answer is to be on the front foot from kick-off.

Sadly, we have a history of starting games slowly, feeling our way into the match, assessing the opposition and then trying to step up a gear. I expect the same today.

We have a plethora of attacking talent, if they fire as a unit, we could be kushtie. Ozil and PEA will cause any team problems … IF.

And what of Manchester City? From top down the Northern Oilers have created a powerful organisation. The inevitable, financially driven, ascendancy took time but today MC are clearly a cut above the opposition on a season long basis, same as PSG and BM (and the Chavs , until the Russian lost interest). But on a one-off game they can be beaten, Wigan did it.

Evidence of the financial doping? Mr Weger has spent£349m in his 21 years as AC manager. Guardiola has spent £371m in his 21 months at MCFC. This sums up all we need to know about why AFC are not competeing for the title.

How can we win? A couple of sending-offs would help –  preferably Sterling and Stones. A lucky goal or two from Hector and Nacho. A few thrilling saves from Ospina and defensive meltdown by the City defence. It is possible..

My Team:

Ospina

Koscielny    Mustafi   Monreal

Bellerin  Ramsey   Xhaka   Elneny

Wilshire   Ozil

PEA

The above team has little potency and it will require a goal or two from midfield.

The Number 5.

We have lost more League/EFL/Rumbelows Finals than any other team, 5

We have only scored 5 goals on the way to the final.

There will be 5 goals in the final, let’s hope they are in our favour.

COYRRG

 


A Serious Test of Mental Strength.

November 5, 2017

If, as so many pundits and even Gooners expect, we get creamed, will I be able to enjoy the excellence of Man City? This is what I woke up to think about, then I had a cup of Builder’s and reconsidered. What if we beat them?

Unlikely but not beyond the realms of imagination.

It has been both alarming and a guilty pleasure watching Guardiola prove the short-termist numbskulls wrong – he is a brilliant manager, the Arsene Wenger of recent years. Admittedly, Pep has the resources of an oil-rich country behind him as he develops a superb side. Sadly, this is the unpalatable future of football; money talks.

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Given the vagaries of our defence have we any hope? Depends upon a few factors. Tactics, personnel, concentration, form and, dare I say it. luck.

Mr. Wenger says we are going to the Ethihad with the intention to attack and not PTB – good. With the current first team we do not have the defensive steel to last 90+ minutes against a team who have such a potent attack. We will see whether AW is telling the truth when we see his team selection; if Coquelin or Elneny start then we are looking to shore up our leaky defence.

If our attackers combine as they did at Goodison we can certainly score goals, especially if Ozil finds space. City’s frailties are on the flanks as their FB’s are very attacking (Walker will cause problems). Had OG played well mid-week I would have given him a start but he didn’t, did he?

Holding, BFG or, if fit, Mustafi? Has to be Holding as MC’s pace upfront could embarrass Mertesacker but as Rob played midweek, it will be our Captain.

My Team: As expected …

Cech

Kos   BFG    Monreal

Bellerin    Ramsey    Xhaka    Kolasinac

Ozil

Lacazette    Sanchez

Where we can match MC is on the bench. We have International players who cannot even ride the pine for AFC.

If both sides play to their potential this will be a terrific game. I would love to have seen the current MC team play the Invincibles – we would have thrashed them. The current team seriously lacks a PV4. It turns out he is irreplaceable.

Pre-game I am excited, let’s hope I am more excited post-game 😀

COYRRG

 

 


Arsène Wenger’s Greatest Sacrifice …..

January 7, 2016

Arsène Wenger is in his 20th year as manager of the Arsenal. In that time he has lived, breathed, and ‘been’ Arsenal.

His dedication has been total and unerring. He is the greatest manager the club has ever known and in common with Herbert Chapman, he has been the driving force behind massive change for the good of the club and football in general in this country.

His Arsenal obsession may even have cost him his marriage, but I’m sure if you asked him today, he would say that his passion and drive is as strong as when he first walked through the doors at Highbury in 1996. We have much to thank him for.

Arsène’s current contract expires at the end of the 2016/17 season. He is a rare commodity in the modern game – an honest, principled and dignified man. He has gone on record many times saying that he always respects his contracts.

We know his love for the club, we also know that one day he will want to hand the reins over to someone who will carry on his good work.

There are very few candidates who could zip up Arsène’s puffer jacket.

Two men, one vision

Two men …. one vision

The one name that has been repeatedly linked as a future incumbent is Pep Guardiola. For most of us he ticks all the boxes.

Pep will be leaving Bayern at the end of the season. He has stated that he would like to come to the EPL and Man City are the bookies favourites to secure his services. But if he is the principled man we believe, wouldn’t he prefer to join a club who do everything the right way, who back their manager through thick and thin, who have a rich history and who aspire to the style of football that Guardiola has championed throughout his managerial career?

Guardiola took a one year sabbatical after leaving Barca but this time it appears he wants to take on a new challenge straight away.

So Pep will be moving in the summer and Arsene, the man who respects contracts, will have another year of his current contract to fulfil.

It’s a travesty that The Invincibles fell short in Europe.  Our squad is probably a couple of years away from competing with Europe’s top three so to win the CL in the next two years is a tough call. Would Arsène deny himself one last chance to win the Champion’s League; the big one that has eluded him?

Arsène may well think he has unfinished business. He may wish to extend his contract before 2017. He owes us nothing, the choice will surely be down to him alone.

Pep may not wish to manage The Arsenal – if so, he isn’t the man we think he is ……. but what if his first choice would be to come to The Emirates?

The hypothetical question I would ask is ……. If (and it’s a big if) …. If we win the league title this season, and if Pep wanted to manage Arsenal, do you think that Arsène would/should step down a year early?

Arsène’s legacy is already cemented into the club’s history. Will his love for Arsenal extend to stepping down a year early for the natural heir apparent?

Give us your thoughts ……

Rasp

 

 


Plan A, Plan B, Plan C … A Plan For All Seasons?

October 22, 2015

The Bayern game and GIE’s comments, used as the third part of the triple post yesterday, got me to thinking. It left me with a question, that being should our holy grail be that we be aiming towards playing at the level of possession and passing football that Guardiola’s Bayern (and Barca before) do, or do we have a team that can adapt and play differently, according to the opposition, and still be equally effective and successful?

Two great sides with a reputation for attacking football both with world class dangerous attacking players met the other night. I do ask myself what would happen if we were to play Guardiola’s side 10 times in succession, them playing their game and us adapting to a solid defensive base counter-attacking game? Would it come out 50-50 over those games or is their style superior enough to limit us to 1-2 wins over those games and this just happened to be one of them?

Looking at Guardiola’s sides I get the feeling they don’t have a plan B, that they just play their same style of football regardless, and mostly to high effect it has to be said. Not having a plan B is a criticism that has been aimed at Arsenal and Wenger over many years. I would certainly say that in the recent past there have been games that cried out for a tactical change to our normal style, and failure to do so has cost us.

The tactical changes and adaptability that GIE highlighted over our last 3 games have been very refreshing. This is of course only relevant moving forwards if we continue to do this and don’t revert to a one size fits all playing style at all times. I do historically feel that Wenger has changed from what appeared to be working formulas before back to his utopian style of football, often to our detriment.

The bigger questions for me though is which option do we settle with?

Option1 :

Should we be aiming to emulate Guardiola’s type of football in the long run? To have such a prolific plan A style of football that tactical considerations need only be minimal. If the answer to this (in your opinion) is yes then it also begs the question of how does Arsene take us to this level, and is it actually attainable within the framework of the EPL?

Option2

If you feel the other option, the one we have seen recently, that we have a prolific attacking team that can adapt its type of play, at times even surrendering the possession and passing football stats to a team like Munich, but still remain as competitive and dangerous as them in head to head games, then are we where we need to be (albeit possibly with a couple of upgrades and additions in certain positions)?

Over to you erstwhile A.A’ers, what do you think?

GoonerB


What If Wenger Does A Guardiola And Walks Away?

April 27, 2012
La Liga (3): 2008–092009–102010–11
Copa del Rey (1): 2008–09
Supercopa de España (3): 200920102011
UEFA Champions League (2): 2008–092010–11
UEFA Super Cup (2): 20092011
FIFA Club World Cup (2): 20092011

So to tidy that up, that is four seasons in charge winning three League titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues, and one Copa del Rey – and yet, it seems, Pep Guardiola is likely to walk away from Barcelona after all but conceding the league to Real Madrid, and getting knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea’s bus. They now just have the Cup Final left to win some silverware.

“Coward! Coward!”

They are yelling it on Fleet Street and in their masses on the internet. But is he really? Apparently the going has gotten tough and Pep is doing a runner.

I suppose before I continue I better clear up a few things (these are my own personal thoughts and not those of AA as a blog)

  • Barcelona are over-rated. They are not “the best team ever” – Would the best team ever have a back five pretty incapable of defending? Valdes makes Almunia look good. Alves is a poor man’s Carlos, and while Puyol is a good defender, he is no Franco Baresi. Isn’t it funny how Lionel Messi didn’t perform over the two legs in the Champions League semi-final and they get knocked out? They are a great team, the best team CURRENTLY plying their trade, but the best ever? Surely I can’t be the only one that watched the AC Milan team of the late 80s and early 90s?
  • They have no Plan B.
  • Pep’s influence on the team has been over-rated. In 2008, he inherited a team that was largely been built up since the Academy days – the core being Xavi, Iniesta and of course, Messi. Gerard Piqué was also returned to the Nou Camp from Manchester United in the very first days of Pep’s reign, while the likes of Pedro and Busquets were been readied for the first team after coming through the youth ranks. All ripe and ready to form a winning machine – all coming neatly together after Frank Rijkaard had kept the ship steady over this period.
  • None of the above is not to say I don’t think Barcelona are a fantastic side and Guardiola a fantastic coach – he has embedded a work ethic in the side which is unparalleled – sadly it also extends to them largely diving as a team (Messi and one or two more gladly don’t take part) and to them waving imaginary cards and trying to get opponents sent off.

So back to the main point – Is Guardiola walking away?

Yes, yes he is. But he’s not walking away from the hard work ahead, or the cries of some greedy fans who want trophies every year, he’s walking away from a possible heart-attack. Pep has just turned 41, has a young family, and has aged considerably in the last season or two.

But Barcelona are a winning club you say, where is the heart attack waiting to come from?

I’ll tell you – the pressure. The pressure of being expected to win every game at a canter, to win every trophy available every season. The pressure of having a mad President that comes part and parcel of a top Spanish club who buys a player at a mad expense and tells you to play him whether he fits or not into your puzzle.

Pep Guardiola is taking a break from football for the sake of his health – both physically and mentally. And who could blame him? He has achieved so much in so little time, and at 41, will still be such hot property when, and if, he returns to football after a season long break. Besides, it’s not as if he might not have done this anyway, regardless of Barcelona’s “failed” season. He has only ever accepted rolling one year contracts and has always hinted he would take time out of the game after a few seasons.

So what has all this to do with Arsenal and Wenger? Quite a lot actually.

The pressure Guardiola is under is very similar to that Wenger is under: managing a big club whose fans expect to win every season playing perfect football. However, unlike Pep, Wenger can’t walk away from football for a while and then pop back into it again. At 62, he may feel that the time is slowing, closing in on his time as a manager, time closing in on his dream to win the Champions League.

So what if he decides to walk from Arsenal to achieve that? What if he thought to hell with the financial pressure he is under and trots off to PSG, Madrid or Barcelona? Sure, he’ll be under the same pressure as at Arsenal, but he’ll have more financial muscle. If anything, walking into Barcelona would be easier for Wenger, he will inherit the same problems there as he has here – dodgy back five, strike force that weighs heavily on the shoulders of one man, pressure to play proper football, pressure to win, but he’ll have the ££££ at Barcelona.

So just imagine if he said “sod it” and off he went. Where would that leave Arsenal? Would Pep Guardiola come over here and give it a punt – or the mouthy Jose Mourinho who knows best when it comes to all matters Arsenal? Yeah lads, we want all that Real Madrid and Barcelona have, but we want it without spending any more money than we make. Ha, that last one makes you think doesn’t it? Makes me think “We want everything that Barcelona and Madrid have – the Galacticos, the va va voom football, the trophies, the giant stadiums … but do it while making more money than you spend Mr. Wenger.”

Pressure?! Pressure, Mr. Guardiola, Mr. Mourinho? Pressure to win because they spend so much on their squads say Fleet Street, but Mr. Wenger is “under none” because we have a board with an ounce of cop on when Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers are dying. Pressure?! Come to an angry Emirates Stadium of a cold Saturday afternoon Pep, I’ll show you pressure.

Written by the lovely Irishgunner