Football News

There are rumours Arsenal players are confused by Unai Emery’s tactics, according to an ex-Gunner

By Harry Edwards

Unai Emery

Published: 16:05, 13 September 2019

Some Arsenal players are confused with the instructions of manager Unai Emery, according to former Gunners striker Alan Smith.

Emery took charge of Arsenal at the start of last season, replacing Arsene Wenger, and led the Gunners to the Europa League final – though they would lose 4-1 to Chelsea.

Are Arsenal confused under Emery? Five things to know…

  • Unai Emery has been Arsenal manager since the start of the 2018/19 season.
  • The Gunners reached the Europa League final and finished fifth in the Premier League.
  • They have started the new campaign fairly well, with seven points from four games.
  • But the Gunners have been criticised for their defence under Emery.
  • And Alan Smith claims he has heard rumours the players are confused by Emery’s tactics.

The defeat meant another season without Champions League football for Arsenal, who last appeared in Europe’s premier club competition in 2016/17, after also failing to finish in the Premier League’s top four.

On top of the continued Champions League absence, Emery has come under some criticism for his tactics, with Arsenal still suffering from the same defensive problems as they had under Wenger.

And Smith, who spent eight years with the Gunners, claims he has heard rumours some Arsenal players are confused with Emery’s tactics.

“What, for instance, constitutes Emery’s best midfield combination? Does he persist with a three or change formation slightly to incorporate a No10 in the shape of Dani Ceballos or Mesut Ozil?” wrote Smith for the Standard.

“On the evidence so far, something needs to change. Because as well as Arsenal played going forward in the second half against Tottenham, that midfield offered scant protection to a back four in need of plenty. Every time the visitors sprang forward they looked really dangerous, encouraged by loads of space in the middle ground.

“Maybe it is down to a lack of understanding. I have heard whispers, after all, that some of the players find their manager’s instructions confusing, that they do not really know what he wants them to do. If so, that does not bode well. A clarity of purpose is essential.

“My mate and former Gunners team-mate, Paul Merson, did make me laugh when he referred to “Unai Wenger”, arguing Arsenal do not look much ­different under the Spaniard than they did during those shapeless latter days under Arsene Wenger.

“In fairness, Emery’s rearguard will probably look a lot different in a month or two, once Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and new-boy Kieran Tierney become available. You would hope that the unit can grow ­steadily stronger to cope much better on the back foot.”

Arsenal started the new Premier League campaign well, winning their opening two games. But they followed that up with a 3-1 defeat against Liverpool in which they were outclassed before drawing with Tottenham Hotspur.

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Emery optimistic about Arsenal’s defence

Sitting fifth in the Premier League after four games, Arsenal have scored six goals but also conceded six. And Emery is optimistic that the Gunners can improve at both ends of the pitch.

“I think we can improve in all situations: offensively and defensively,” he told reporters.

“Really, we have players and we have more options in the next weeks, and I am optimistic that we can work and we can have players to improve in all things, defence and attack.”