Unai Emery is not Arsene Wenger. If he keeps demanding the wrong thing from the wrong players, he will not be Arsenal’s messiah either.
Wenger would not have asked Petr Cech to play the ball out from defence like this. Wenger would not have enforced such clear patterns of play going forward. Yet the negatives of Emery’s style stood out as, in more Wenger-like fashion, Arsenal’s hopes were snuffed out at the end.
When those fans in the home end asked Emery (right) whether he was ‘Arsene Wenger in disguise’, this felt like the same script being played out again. There was a response before the final blow at the death.
Sam Allardyce was correct, in parts, earlier this week. After the City defeat last weekend, he suggested: ‘Don’t ask somebody to do against Manchester City what you shouldn’t do, and you should not play out like that against Manchester City.’
The reality is that when Chelsea were at their best, Sarri-ball in motion, Petr Cech looked uncomfortable with the ball at his feet.
At one point the Matthew Harding Stand began cheering when the ball reached him under pressure. It feels like a real mistake from him is due.
Another aspect of Emery’s system, the high defensive line, was exploited for Alvaro Morata’s strike. The Spaniard is, by no means, the fastest striker in the league. Yet he outpaced Shkodran Mustafi with ease.The problem there is that Emery’s philosophy does not match the tools at his disposal. Neither Mustafi nor Sokratis Papastathopoulos are the quickest. It is the Cech problem repeated up the pitch. Dogma outweighing pragmatism to Arsenal’s detriment.
But there were positives to take from this game for those Arsenal fans here — not least the difference in their team going forward.
Jorginho was in fine flow in attack but did not offer much defensively. He was too slow to react to play behind him.
So what Arsenal did was play triangles around him, and then cut the ball back into space for an onrushing midfielder. On two occasions, the ball reached Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who spooned it straight over the crossbar. Ditto Alex Iwobi, but only after he had scored the equaliser through the same route to goal.
At the least, unlike the later Wenger days, they had a plan of action. They looked coached going forward.
That is why Emery’s reaction was so telling. Each time, he’d turn and scream. Yet once he had faced those on the pitch, he was applauding. The outcome was frustrating, but the idea was exactly what he wanted.
Even so, the teething problems remain. Emery needs to ask less of players who cannot do it all. Cech does not need to be greeted by cheers whenever the ball is played to his feet. The defence does not need to be so badly exposed.
The manager needs to stop putting them in that position.