Tag Archives: Unai Emery

In Modern football is too much blame being placed on the manager?

The past seven days in the premier league has witnessed two managers relieved of their duties.

Both Unai Emery at Arsenal and Quique Sanchez Flores, at Watford that was his second spell at the club and marked the hornet’s second managerial change of the season. 

Arsenal director Josh Kroenke revealed that the decision to remove Emery from his position had been ‘weeks’ in the making as they felt that the head coach had lost the backing of the fans. The former Sevilla and PSG boss was on a run of seven games without a win.

Former Arsenal player, Freddie Ljungburg, replaced the 48 year old and the Swede opened his managerial account with a 2-2 draw away to Norwich this past weekend.

Ljungburg is the latest appointment by a club chairman and the board of a former player at one of the big six clubs following the trend of Frank Lampard at Chelsea at the start of the season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and has prompted Kroenke to say that, “ Ljungburg has Arsenal DNA and understands the club.”

These latest managerial sackings however prompt the question… Is too much blame being placed on the manager?

Head Coach versus Manager role

For a start some teams nowadays have Head Coaches while others have Managers.

The former Tottenham Manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking in 2015, highlights the subtle differences between the roles:

“If you are the manager, you decide many things about the club.  But if you are a head coach, your responsibility is to play better, try to improve the players and to get positive results.”

Pochettino continued:

“At Southampton, I was manager my responsibility was not only to coach the team. With Tottenham, I am a head coach.  A head coach is head of your department. My department is to train the team.”

The attributes needed to be successful are reportedly the same for both roles, being adaptable in terms of training and good judgement on team selection for instance.

The head coach however can protest regarding lack of signings, but there is a lack of authority on the role compared with being a Manager.

It seems that the days are long gone when an Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson figure end up having complete control in terms of how things are run at football clubs.

Ultimately however is enough time given to managers or head coaches these days to implement the changes they require?

Former Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, speaking to Harvard Business Review said:

“I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed.  So we tried to visualise the team maybe three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly.”

Ferguson continued: “Because I was at United for such a long time, I could afford to plan ahead – no one expected me to go anywhere. I was very fortunate in that respect.”

Is football after all a team game?

Football is supposed to be a team game, so shouldn’t the players, coaching staff and those who run the club be held equally accountable?

There is a squad of 25 players and even though the manager is there to inspire, implement tactics and produce impactful substitutions, he is not out there on the field playing the matches.

Sir Alex Ferguson was often praised for bringing on substitutes that would lead to last minute Manchester United winners. More recent examples include Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers, who have been praised for the way they set up their teams at Liverpool and Leicester City respectively.

Managers therefore are quickly praised but equally critics are ready to pounce if things are not quite going to plan. This leads to increased scrutiny on the man in charge and he is more often than not, provided with enough time to turn things around.

Flores for instance was only given 87 days so the window provided is getting shorter for managers to make the desired impact that the clubs fans and owners are looking for.

When asked about the recent pressure that Everton manger, Marco Silva was under, England and Everton’s number one goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford said:

“ A few bad performances should not put the manager under pressure”

Pickford continued:

“ We have to look at ourselves as individuals and as a squad.  You are a team and you win together and you loose together.”

Sacking managers is not always the answer

Pickford has currently had 11 managers throughout his Premier League career to date, since his introduction seven in three seasons at Sunderland, who are now currently in League One and four in the past three seasons at Everton.

Although Silva and his team enjoyed an impressive conclusion to the previous campaign, there is little suggest that Everton will challenge currently for the top six positions that they are looking to break into.

Owners expecting quick results

The influx of money, particularly in the Premier League and the spending power of clubs has changed, particularly in the past few years.

It has become harder for the top clubs to get the players that they want as other teams are under less pressure to sell and want to get the maximum amount for the player in question.

When the high transfer fees are spent, Emery for instance had over 100 million to spend on transfers over the summer, including 70 million on Nicholas Pepe from Lille, both the fans and the owners expect the side to hit the ground running.

If the desired results are not being delivered the boardroom will look for someone to blame. The easiest answer will ultimately always be the person in charge, the manager.

Challenging football schedules

Liverpool Manager, Jurgen Klopp eluded to this matter at the start of November as the German said,

“ Crazy football schedule for international players, there is no time for the manager to work with the players on the training field.”

Sadio Mane, one of Liverpool’s key attackers for instance has only had two weeks break all year round. The league leaders are currently at a start of a run that will see them play 13 matches over a six-week period.

It is therefore a struggle for a new manager or one that is under pressure to implement a new style of play or change tactics for an upcoming game if he does not have enough time to coach the players.

There is also the addition of international tournaments such as this year’s Nations League competition that increases the amount of time that players are away from their club sides.

The demanding schedules lead to the increased chances of injuries to significant players for key games as well as player fatigue that leads to a greater chance of players making mistakes out on the field of play.

Pressures of qualifying for Europe’s elite competitions

All the elite clubs strive to be apart of the Champions League with the prize money seemingly increasing year on year, for this season clubs would have secured roughly 15 million just for reaching the group stage.

This would drive club owners to make knee jerk decisions, especially if their team was not performing on the field.

Media scrutiny on Managers

Finally the media scrutiny on managers in this day and age is enormous.  Particularly for sides such as Manchester United and Liverpool, who have former players as pundits such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.

They are quick to point out what the manager should and should not do using video technology in their Sky Sports Studio.

The influence of the Video Assistant Referee is also proving to be a game changer this season.

The manager also has to watch what he says in the pre and post match interview. He is ultimately put under the microscope more than any one individual player as he is exposed to the media every week.

If a player has a bad game he can choose to avoid the media and public eye following the match and can always redeem himself the following week.

When it is going well, the manager is quick to be praised by everyone and can supposedly do no wrong.  When things however start to go wrong, fortunes can change very quickly, owners want to see a return on their increased investment and it is on the whole easier for them sack one person rather than wait till the transfer market to sell and sign numerous players. 

 Feel free to give 24/7 your opinion, is too much blame and pressure being put on the manager or head coach?

 

 

Gunning for the Top Four

Arsenal are a conundrum at the moment. It feels like there definitely is something up with them, but also like everything might just be going alright as Unai Emery attempts to move on from the Arsene Wenger era.

Opinion is generally split on whether the Spaniard is doing a good job or not, although last night’s 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United seems like it may have sent Arsenal fans over the edge. In fairness to Emery though, annoying the Arsenal fans doesn’t take much if you’re their manager.

The loss at Bramall Lane saw the Gunners spurn the opportunity to go third – and if they had won then perspectives today would probably be greatly different. 

But they did not, and their defeat was against a Sheffield United side who are not to be underestimated. The Blades are organised, well drilled and constantly surprising the Premier League with innovative tactics. It’s probably safe to assume that we’re all now up to date on the functions of overlapping centre backs.

Watching the game, it really didn’t feel like Arsenal were ever going to score. To use that old cliche, they could have kept playing till the next morning and still not have found a way through. 

Even recapping over the short burst of highlights Sky Sports graces us with on YouTube, there is very little for Arsenal to shout about from the game. Whoever was editing that video would have had a hard job scraping together three minutes of action. 

But it’s not like the Gunners lack any abundance of attacking talent. They have Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe as a ‘first choice’ front three. Then they also have the young talents of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock. 

Behind them in midfield, they have the aggressive pairing of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, as well as Dani Ceballos adding a bit more technical quality. 

With this considered, you feel that Emery should be doing better. It seems he is struggling to find a system to incorporate and fully utilise the talents of his squad. Sheffield United were superb on Monday night but with the quality Arsenal have, they really should have created more. 

If only they had a little bit more class in the final third. A proven creative, an assists machine. Someone who, preferably, had proven themselves on the world stage. 

The above is, of course, a thinly veiled reference to Meszut Ozil – the forgotten man at the Emirates. It’s only three years since he recorded 19 assists in one season, and it seems Arsenal are in need of his creativity now. 

But he generally remains on the bench or out of the squad, with Emery tight lipped about what exactly is going on. It’s a mystery that has, unbelievably, seemed to unite Arsenal fans behind Ozil. 

There are certainly failings on Emery’s part, but there are some things that just haven’t gone his way.

The Gunners have generally failed to recruit well in defence of late, and what they have to show for the fruits of their labour is a centre back pairing of Sokratis and David Luiz. This partnership has become something of a calamity duo, with Luiz’s failings in one on one situations becoming ever more apparent. 

And then there are the early season injuries to Hector Bellerin and new signing Kieran Tierney going against Emery. Arsenal look, on paper, relatively strong at full back with these two fit. Bellerin’s return is imminent while Tierney has apparently recovered. Emery’s unwillingness to throw him straight in, though, is yet another thing that is angering fans. 

So while some things are certainly not helpful for Emery, there are ways in which he could be doing better. Some fluidity and creativity is needed up front, and the ex-PSG manager desperately needs to find the best system for his talented front line. Most likely, it will involve some difficult decisions on who to leave out. 

So in the sense that Emery has gotten some good attackers and is blooding young prospects (which, thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, we now know is the best thing in the world), he is doing pretty well.

But there is a lack of coherency and guile, as well as floundering attempts to find the best system for his side. And not to forget the shortcomings at centre back. So there’s some good, but also some bad.

With a fully fit and firing squad, Arsenal should really be aiming for the top four. The Gunners will not want another season confined to the Europa League. 

Manchester United vs Arsenal

About 15 years ago, Manchester United versus Arsenal was the hottest fixture in the Premier League calendar. As the cliche goes, it’s the game you would be looking for as soon as the fixture list came out.

But nowadays, as much as the Sky Sports marketing team are trying to pretend otherwise, it just doesn’t have the same gravity.

The days of the Ferguson-Wenger rivalry are over, along with the two side’s title hopes for the foreseeable future. There are no furious wrestles for top spot in the Premier League, but a desperate clammer for the Europa League. 

The Solskjaer-Emery rivalry just doesn’t feel like it will have the same kind of bite to it. And it’s a rivalry that, should the current form of both sides continue to slump, probably won’t be around for much longer. 

Both sides currently sit outside the ‘top six’, but a win for the Gunners would see them fly up to fourth, behind Leicester City on goal difference. A win for United, meanwhile, would put them level on points with their London opponents.

The two sides have already met twice in 2019 since Solskjaer took over. The first was in late January, near the start of the Norwegian’s now baffling winning streak. It was a game and a result that actually felt like more than just United’s players being happy that someone with a nice smile had taken over as manager. 

Solskjaer displayed some real tactical nous. Jesse Lingard lingered in kind of false nine position, teasing the Arsenal backline. Romelu Lukaku would then use his pace and power to exploit this space, and drift wide to pillage the inevitable gaps left by Sead Kolasinac. 

It was a result that felt like it gave some real substance to United’s burst of form under Solskjaer. Something that showed that it wasn’t just a new manager buzz that was spurring them on. 

But fast forward a couple of months to their Premier League meeting in March, and the Red Devils slumped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium. The wheels had come off whatever vehicle Solskjaer was at the wheel for. 

It was Arsenal’s first victory against Man United since May 2017, having lost three of the four games since. But now they seem the slightly more likely side to pip the points tonight based off recent form.

United capped off a disappointing 2-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend with a midweek scare against Rochdale in the League Cup. A strike from 16 year old Luke Matheson sent the match to a nervous penalty shootout, which United were able to edge through on. 

The signs aren’t encouraging for the Red Devils, although they were able to pull off what now constitutes as a surprise victory against Leicester this month. 

United have generally struggled in games which they’ve seen a lot of the ball, such as against Crystal Palace. But when facing teams that want to play and have their share of the ball like Leicester and Chelsea, the Red Devils have been able to release their counter-attacking weapons. 

This has the potential to trouble Arsenal’s defence, with David Luiz and Sokratis both struggling this season. Sokratis lacks speed and has looked shaky in possession, while Luiz’s recklessness has seen him punished several times already. 

Isolating both in one on one situations could see them struggle, although United will be without Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. Both players’ direct running abilities would have been a serious danger to the Gunners’ centre back partnership.

Instead, it is likely to be Mason Greenwood who they will face. Unless Solskjaer decides that Lingard should be played up front, like he surprisingly did against West Ham. 

Greenwood has certainly shown potential and willingness to run at opponents, so if he can fully realise his talents against the Gunners then he could be a threat. 

But that is not to forget Arsenal’s own talents up front. Alexandre Lacazette remains sidelined but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicholas Pepe both look set to start, with Dani Ceballos in the team to help supply them. 

Arsenal’s front line this year is incredibly promising, in stark contrast to their defence. United, meanwhile, have bolstered at the back with Harry Maguire, who looks to be forming a good partnership with Victor Lindelof. 

But with Martial and Rashford injured and a lack of a creative attacking midfielder, the Red Devils look very light in attack. It will be a fascinating battle between two teams who have greatly mixed abilities throughout each of their sides. 

Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: Gunners’ new faces fail to impact as Reds run rampant

Dominant Liverpool put forth a stunning display at jumping Anfield as they strolled past Arsenal 3-1 to stretch their winning streak in the Premier League to 12.

The matchday 3 of the Premier League saw Liverpool going toe to toe with Arsenal at Anfield, which promised to be a mouthwatering clash between two attacking units. Anfield has turned out to be a nightmare for Arsenal in the recent past as they witnessed a sheer humiliation in their recent trips to the Red Half of Merseyside. With an eye-catching business in the transfer window, Arsenal were seeking a positive result after recent catastrophes against The Reds.

However, it didn’t turn out be an outing their twelfth man had hoped for.

Liverpool, with their sheer class, quality and attacking proficiency were capable of achieving a grip on the game from very early stages. Full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were under constant spotlight, turning the game into a crossing session in the first half.

Liverpool’s error did hand gunners with some really good chances of scoring but they couldn’t capitalise on them. At last in the dying moments of the first 45, a breakthrough came. It was Reds’ defender Joel Matip who put Reds in front and their all hard work of the first half was paid off. It was more of psychological relief.

Neither of the two made the changes in the half time. The start of the second period was electric for Reds and David Luiz’s blunder of pulling Mohamed Salah’s shirt offered Liverpool to double their lead from the spot. The Egyptian, with a sublime penalty, fired Liverpool to a two goal lead and it started feeling like Arsenal’s past trips to Anfield are going to be repeated.

The tie had swiftly turned into the favor of hosts. The European Champions were in complete control and looked to cause Arsenal more of problems. On the 58th minute mark, Salah yet again fired Liverpool to a three-goal lead. But this time, the goal was sumptuous. With a sublime turn, he nullified David Luiz and then struck a well taken shot to the left bottom corner. Liverpool 3- 0 Arsenal.

Lucas Torreira scored a late consolation goal for arsenal which injected small unrest in the stands of Anfield. However, it ended as Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal.

Liverpool have started yet another season on a big high while Arsenal’s 100% start in the Premier League season has been broken. However, despite the result, there are some positives for Arsenal. Nicolas Pepe showed glimpses of what he can do while Torreira’s impact after coming from the bench is also a positive.

Player Ratings:

Liverpool:

Adrian (7), Van Dijk (8), Matip (9), Robertson (7), Alexander Arnold (7), Wijnaldum (6), Henderson (7), Fabinho (8), Mane (7), salah (9), Firmino(8).

Subs: Milner (6), Oxlade chamberlain (6), Lallana (N/A).

Arsenal:

Leno (6), Luiz (4), Sokratis (6), Monreal (5), Maitland Niles (6), Xhaka (6), Guendouzi (6), Willock (6), Ceballos (6), Aubameyang (5), Pepe (6).

Subs

Torreira (7), Lacazette (N/A).

 What Next?

Liverpool face Burnley in matchday 4 at Turf Moor, while another tough clash awaits for Arsenal as they face arch-rivals Tottenham next week.

Should Arsenal set their sights on the Europa League?

Written By Sean Fisher

With Arsenal currently out of the top 4 and out of all domestic competitions, could the Europa League be Arsenal’s saving grace?

After their recent 3-0 win over BATE, Unai Emery’s side progressed to the round of 16 of the competition where they are set to face French side Rennes.

The 2019 Europa League final is set to be hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan. And come the 29th May, the Gunners will be hoping to return to the city for the second time this season following their 3-0 triumph over Qarabag in the group stages.

The city of Baku may become a familiar sight for many players after it’s Olympic Stadium was chosen to host 4 matches during the 2020 Euros, including a Quarter Final match on the 4th July.

The competition is Arsenal’s only real hope of silverware this season after crashing out of the FA and Carabao Cup. Winning the Europa League wouldn’t just present Emery with his first trophy with Arsenal, but would also earn his side Champions League qualification, concluding his first season as a successful transition from the Wenger era.

With Emery at the helm, Arsenal fans should be quietly confident of their chances in Europe this season. The Spaniard boasts an impressive record in the Europa League, winning the competition 3 seasons in a row when in charge of Spanish side Sevilla. This places Emery alongside Giovanni Trapattoni as the only managers to have won the competition 3 times, the latter winning the honour with Juventus twice and Inter Milan.

Should Arsenal go on to win the cup, Emery would achieve what Wenger couldn’t in the shape of a European trophy. Wenger reached the final of the Europa League in 2000 but eventually bowed out to Galatasaray via penalties after a scoreless game.

Arsenal’s only previous success in the competition came back in 1994 during their Cup Winners’ Cup campaign, before it was re-branded the Europa League in the 98-99 season. But it seems Arsenal have the right man in charge to help bring European success back to the Gunners.

The Arsenal side at present are 3rd favourites to win the competition behind London rivals Chelsea and Italian giants Napoli, but are first faced by a difficult challenge when they fly to France for their first leg clash against Stade Rennais F.C. on the 7th March.

The French side progressed into the round of 16 after beating Real Betis in a goal-filled tie that ended 6-4 on aggregate. With the French side scoring frequently this season, they could present a heavily-criticised Arsenal defence with a few problems in their road to the final.

Is it realistic for Arsenal to target European success this season?