Unai Emery must have breathed a sigh of relief when Danny Welbeck swiveled and rifled home Arsenal’s third goal in their 3-1 home win against West Ham last Saturday. The Spanish manager is now off the mark at Arsenal after two very tricky opening games. However it was a win his new team were somewhat lucky to get and perhaps posed more questions than it answered.
They simply will not get away with being so open and generous to better sides this season. West Ham were afforded a number of chances and acres of space to break away in on Saturday, it’s something Emery will have to fix if he’s to have long-term ambitions of sorting Arsenal’s issues. The issues they are experiencing largely stem from their adventurous Spanish full-backs and their apparent lack of enthusiasm for getting back in the trenches with their defensive colleagues.
In all fairness, their issues do not solely come from Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin, however, their license to bomb forward at will and in any situation is causing a huge number of opportunities for opposing sides, who will have been watching the West Ham game with great interest.
It has become one of the vital duties of the modern full back. Just being a solid defender doesn’t cut it any more. You must have that ability to get forward with real quality and overlap otherwise you become something of a hindrance.
The game is now played at such a speed, that you need the ability to dominate your flank with pace and aggressive running. Arsenal have two such players who are, almost, perfect modern full-backs. They lack only the inclination to get back and defend.
Against West Ham, you’d be forgiven for thinking both men were attackers, such was their intent and desire to get forward. Against deep siting defences, they will no doubt be a great help, however, if Emery is to have any success with his full backs playing so high, then he is going to need everyone on board.
Work, Work, Work
Its become a trendy thing to do, slating Arsenal, and in fairness to them, they deserve real praise for their commitment to attacking football. Emery though is going to have to take a leaf from Guardiola and Klopp’s manual if he’s to address the lack of balance blighting his team. His players are going to have to put one hell of a shift in, if he’s to continue sanctioning his full backs attacking play.
Emery must get his midfield to do likewise and put the yards in. Mkhitaryan and Iwobi are quality attackers, but they must get back and help the midfield. If Emery is to insist on utilizing the high press, then that midfield of his is going to see it’s workload doubled, even trebled.
At Liverpool for example, if Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are bombing on, as they often are, their teammates know to drop in and fill the gaps. Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum and Kieta know instinctively they must drop in to either channel and plug the gaps to prevent their team being overrun with an opportune counter attack. They don’t even need the vociferous presence of Van Dijk to order them about, it’s drilled into them on the training ground and comes from dogged determination and a team ethic.
Arsenal must take note of this. Emery has to get his players in tune with their colleagues. If the Spanish duo charge forward, someone has to get back. Their defence must also gain a voice, one of the centre-halves should be marshalling his defensive colleagues.
They cannot get forward all the time and neglect their defensive duties and will need a not too gentle reminder at times. Mustafi and or Papastathopoulos must show more authority this season, if they continue to be so passive, it’s only going to exacerbate Arsenal’s issues.
Too often, Arsenal have resembled a side lacking cohesion. Yes, they have never struggled to score, two decades of Wenger will do that for you, but try as they might they just cannot shut up shop.
It is the biggest issue for Emery to fix at Arsenal. Bellerin and Monreal can be great assets for him, but he will need all hands to the pump to make it work. If he can pull it off, he will have a formidable attacking machine at his command.