The first real test was upon us this Saturday. Liverpool away was on the menu. Anything could happen but we were surely not the favourites for that game. A 3-1 loss was the outcome. And although it still didn’t feel good to lose that, we can’t be too surprised.
We are not fully ready
We had a great start to the season. Winning the first two and signing some great players in the transfer window. But as I wrote last week we have a team still trying to find their way with so many new faces in the team. Also, the injuries to key players played us parts. It was clear to see that we are missing Bellerin on the right. Also, Monreal seemed a bit slow at times on the left. I am interested to see what Tierney can bring when he’s fit to play.
Positives from the game
It was also great to see Willock’s development. His form is increasing rapidly. Ceballos didn’t reach the level he got to last week against Burnley. But he’s also adapting to Premier League life still. The player I was most impressed with – without a single doubt – was Nicolas Pepe. What a gem of an attacker we signed. Okay, he’s cost us a record fee. But his attacking intent, movement and dribbling was causing Liverpool a lot of trouble. He even broke Virgil van Dijk’s insane run of 50 games without being dribbled past. That makes me look forward to when he will play against defenders of lesser quality. And next weekend in the North London derby, obviously.
Emery’s variety in tactics
Former striker Robin van Persie was a pundit for BT Sports at the Liverpool game on tv. He openly questioned Emery’s philosophy with Arsenal. He compared our current manager to Arsene Wenger.
“It’s difficult to say because if you look at the teams under Wenger, Wenger’s teams always used to play from his philosophy. You can see the same happening now with Jurgen Klopp and the same with Pep Guardiola at Liverpool and Manchester City.”
“But with Emery I don’t really see his philosophy. What is his philosophy? He’s changing a lot, he’s changing tactics a lot. It looks to me like he’s changing his playing style based on the opponent, and I think it does show real strength if you, from the basis, go out with your own strengths.”
To be honest, I think he has a point. Not to put myself in the manager seat, but it does indeed look like Emery switches tactics based on opponents. Wenger might have been holding on to his philosophy for too long when it wasn’t working at times. But Emery sometimes brings on three substitutions at once to force an immediate change. And he does change his formation based on opponents.
Important choices to make
However, Emery has quite some homework to do. Not only will he have to analyze where we can improve from the Liverpool game. It will also be a week to make important decisions.
It is expected that Nacho Monreal might leave for Real Sociedad before the window closes. Also, Mohamed Elneny could be on the move to either Fenerbahçe or Galatasaray. He would need to take a big wage cut to join one of the Turkish giants. But it would be a sensible decision to go elsewhere as he has no perspective of playing time here. The Monreal deal would be one I am less happy with. At left back we have Tierney who is out until at least October. And Kolasinac is not fully fit yet as he has been missing out some time because of security issues. It would make more sense to me to sell Monreal in the January window. That would give Tierney and Kolasinac time to get fit. However, if the finances on the deal are good it would be stupid to turn it down as well.
I can live with losing against this Liverpool side
Losing to Liverpool was probably something most people expected. It would have been totally awesome to pull a rabbit out of the hat and win or maybe draw at Anfield, but it was certainly not expected. I think Manchester City and Liverpool are in a league of their own this year. These two will decide who wins the title, I think. For us to finish top four would be an amazing result this year. Getting us back in the Champions League is what matters most.
No excuses for next Sunday
For now, the focus will go to next weekend. Philosophy or no philosophy, that is not important this Sunday. We’re playing one of the two fixtures that everyone wants us to win no matter where we are in the league. The North London derby is upon us. We failed the Liverpool test but it was expected. But if we want to finish top four and more important: keep the local bragging rights, this is a must win. At home against Tottenham there is no time for excuses. Let’s get behind the team and hope for a great result. Come on Arsenal!