Morning all, happy Friday and we head into a Premier League weekend where we’re looking for our first points of the season. We’ll preview the match fully before tomorrow’s novelty 3pm kick-off on a Saturday (it’ll never catch on), but yesterday Unai Emery met the press ahead of the West Ham game.
There’s nothing new in terms of injuries, but quite how he sets up his team this weekend is going to be interesting. In a few months time we’ll be better placed to make guesses about what he’s going to do with his team selection, based on opposition, location, form etc, but right now the amount of info we have to work with is so small that it’s pretty difficult.
There are players who haven’t really performed in the opening two games, which might put their place in the team on the line, but then you have to ask if matches against Man City and Chelsea away are the right ones to make proper assessments of them. Or at least for the boss to do that. If we’re sort of willing to write those results off because of the context of them – the start of the season etc – will Emery feel like giving that kind of leeway to some of them?
We’ll see tomorrow obviously, but he did speak about his system, and how he views the team’s tactical approach. He does seem more willing to expand on his ideas than the previous manager, but I wonder if, as his English improves, he might become a bit more circumspect. I hope not, and speaking about them yesterday, he said:
We are working on different situations tactically. In the first we are playing with four at the back, then we have two and one, and one and two. With two and one, it is like a 4-2-3-1 and one, two, is for a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-3-3. We have players who train in this system. The moment on the pitch is different. I think with two systems, we can continue to progress and think about winning the next match.
Whether these systems are designed to be used against particular opposition, to switch mid-game, or whether they’re on the ball v off the ball is not clear to us just yet, but no doubt the Spaniard is making his players aware of what he wants and when he wants it. He was also asked about the idea of playing two up front, pairing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, but that’s not something he’s considering right now:
At the moment, no. At the moment, I think we need to have the control with the possession, with the positioning on the pitch, with more players inside. And after this possession, to do the attacking moments and defending moments with this balance. But, it is one possibility to continue in our progress and in one moment to try also to play with two scorers. In the last match of the pre-season, against Lazio, I did it with Lacazette and Nketiah. But also, this position also for the players, they know that in one moment we can do that. But at the moment, no.
I’m going to keep my guess of the team until tomorrow’s game, but I think Aubameyang will get the nod up front again – Emery is backing him to tuck away the chances if we continue to create them, and I think despite the misses against Chelsea, it’s the decision I’d make. Anyway, more on the West Ham in the preview post tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Laurent Koscielny returned to training yesterday – light training and running, I should point out – and that’s a very welcome sight. The Frenchman suffered a terrible injury in Madrid in May, so to see him start his rehab in earnest so soon is very encouraging, although Emery was unsure of when he might be back in action, saying:
It’s difficult to know. You look at this morning, he’s running, he’s working on the pitch. The progress is very good progress. We need to be patient with him because the injury was an important injury.
I know he had his struggles last season, and when you consider he’ll be 33 on his next birthday (Sept 10th) he’s not in the absolute prime of his career, but I can tell you I’d feel a lot better about the centre of our defence with a fit Laurent Koscielny in it. Let’s hope he continues to make good progress and that his recovery is trouble free. I don’t think anyone is in any doubt as to the seriousness of the injury, particularly when it happens at this stage of a player’s career, but some are quick healers and more resilient than others.
When you consider the update from the Arsenal medical team that was released yesterday had this to say about the skipper – “Right Achilles tendon repair. Aiming to return to training in November.” – then we can perhaps allow ourselves a little optimism that he can get back sooner. Whatever happens though, when you read about how player fitness is being managed these days, he won’t be rushed back before he’s ready. Anyway, it’s good to see him back, and fingers crossed we can cope without him in the meantime.
Right, a couple of small things. Alan Smith is the guest on this week’s Arsecast (listen below) but if you fancy winning a signed copy of his book, check out the competition and get your entry in before Sunday night.
For some extra reading this morning, here’s Tim Stillman on Matteo Guendouzi and how his emergence is the prism through which we’re viewing change at the moment. And if you’re interested in stats and their application in football, there’s a really interesting glossary of terms from Scott (@oh_that_crab) who has taken over the stats posts on Arseblog News.
I’ll leave you with the podcast, till tomorrow.