Arsenal: Unai Emery and poor man management
Good ebening my fellow Gooners and welcome to my blog. The international break came at the right time to help us get our stress levels, blood pressure and overall health back to normal. Having said that, with Arsenal – there is always something going on. You cannot live you life in peace. The other day, some alarming news broke out – Lucas Torreira’s agent, Pablo Bentancur, speaking to Sky Italy has been pretty conspicuous in regards to attributing Emery not utilizing his client correctly, leading to discontent and a possible move away from North London, which was sort of echoed by Lucas himself, today.
Its important to understand that this is not an isolated occurrence. Right through Unai’s tenure at Arsenal, mismanagement of personnel has been a feature. People often speak about the coach’s excess pragmatism, poor in -game management and unnecessary conservatism – but for me, his biggest weakness is how he deals with personnel.
When he first joined Arsenal, the player he wants to build the team around is Aaron Ramsey. He raves about Rambo post his third training session:
“I am very happy with him. Every training is with the ambition I want, working with quality and the competitive spirit I want. I want to work with him. His future is a question for the player and club. I said to Ivan, Raúl and Sven [Gazidis, Sanllehí and Mislintat, the collective dealing with contracts and transfers] he’s an important player for me.”
However, in a couple months the player suddenly ‘does not fit into his system’ and is benched – post his contract extension being withdrawn. But when times get desperate, guess who Unai returns to? Ramsey. That means his stance of system fit is an incorrect one OR compared to other players in the squad, Ramsey fits his system the best. If so, surely his contract should have been extended? I have absolutely no doubt that if Ramsey played the whole of last season, we would have made top 4. The whole situation was managed so poorly and Emery was at the center of it all.
Emery’s standoff with Mesut Özil right through his tenure has given media outlets plenty of content. He was also considered to be ‘very talented’ and ‘important’ to Emery when he spoke in his first Arsenal press conference.
But it very much seems to me like Unai struggles to manage big egos. From the tussle between Neymar and Cavani back in PSG (Which Cavani openly blamed Emery for), to having a rift with Neymar over work rate issues, to angering numerous PSG stars including club captain Thiago Silva – there are plentiful examples to pick from. We could write a separate article for his mismanagement at PSG, but lets just say this – Very few liked him in the PSG dressing room.
To be a top club and achieve your objectives, players need to align with the manager. The reliable David Ornstein reported for the Athletic that Unai does not have the backing of the entire squad. Success is impossible in this circumstance. It is pretty clear to me that Unai is intimidated by Ozil. Mesut has a bigger following on social media than even the official Arsenal page and is a fan favorite. The man is a gargantuan institution by himself. Instead of setting aside some of his own ego and doing what is best for the club, Unai has decided to go head to head with Ozil. Unfortunately for him, there was only 1 winner, that being Ozil. This was evidenced when fans chanted his song during our draw with Palace, leading to the player being inducted back into the side. You either phase the player out completely, or you play him consistently. He brings Ozil back in crucial games, or when his job is on the line. What does that tell you about the coach? When times gets desperate, he abandons his own principles. From saying ‘Ozil is important’, to ‘Ozil needs to work’ to ‘I prefer speaking about others’, to ‘Others deserve chances ahead of him’ to ‘Ozil can give us some qualities’. Every month seems to take a different turn when it comes to his relationship with Ozil. These things would definitely have an adverse effect with respect to dressing room’s perception of the coach.
The way Jose Mourinho handled Ozil is a great example of how you manage a big name. He pushed him a lot, and things sometimes got uncomfortable between the two , but that motivated Ozil to do better, going on to become the best number 10 in the world back then. Ozil loves Mourinho despite all the fights they had at Madrid. Unai’s treatment has deflated the player, but he won’t leave anytime soon because he’s confident he will outlast the coach and with good reason.
Lucas Torreira, who was one of Europe’s best defensive midfielders in the first half of last season is now being played in a far more advanced position. It becomes imperative for the head coach to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every player – Something Emery has regularly failed to do. Then comes the whole captaincy fiasco. Taking extra weeks to announce captains and having a vote when all this should have been done before the season even started. On the pitch, Granit Xhaka has been relied upon to be our sole ball winner in midfield when defending is not even his biggest strength. Fans directed all their anger on the captain, when it should have all been directed at the coach for managing the whole situation so poorly.
One of the few positives from the Unai Emery era is his willingness to play youngsters. However, playing them alone is not enough. You got to ask yourself the question – Is he the right coach to help them develop? I’m not so sure. For example, he’s taken off Joe Willock TWICE at half time. Willock has played as a number 6,8 and 10 and hasn’t been allowed to settle in one position or system. As a result, he has started playing with lesser confidence now than when he first got game time this season. Reiss Nelson, who is one of Hale end’s brightest talents in years, got subbed off after 45 mins, in just his second appearance for the club this season, when he wasn’t even doing that badly against Burnley. In fact, he produced a brilliant finish, but unfortunately, Monreal was offside in the buildup to the goal. These players need to be given more chances and should be given freedom to express themselves. You need to ensure as coach, that their confidence levels are high. You do not want a situation where your best U-21 players leave. Not everyone is a Martinelli, who is way ahead for that age – but many can hit their respective ceilings with proper management. Freddie’s role is to help integrate youngsters with the first team, but beyond that – the onus is on Emery to nurture them. Apart from Guendouzi, I haven’t been impressed with his management of our young ballers.
The last thing we need at Arsenal is an exodus of our best talents leaving. Unfortunately Emery’s appalling standards of man-management could act as a catalyst for that potential catastrophe. Arsenal need to act fast. The next few games better be Emery’s LAST chance to turn things around. Will he do so? I am not confident, but time will tell. COYG!