Alan Smith- reveals what Unai Emery is doing wrong

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Watching England grapple with Kosovo this week reminded me of the issues facing Unai Emery.

Like Gareth Southgate, the Arsenal manager has a fantastic front three to play around with. Just like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford or Jadon Sancho, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe will cause anyone problems with their pace, ability and finishing.

But behind that attack so many questions need answers, as that chaotic to-and-fro in Southampton proved for the Three Lions. 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?

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.

I thought the studious Emery would have made improvements long before now. For someone who spends untold hours personally cutting up video of the opposition to show his ­players, you would have thought we would have seen a more organised reaction to ­losing the ball.

Quique Sanchez Flores will certainly be trying to quickly introduce that in his second stint at Watford. For me, he inherits a better squad than the one he left. Arsenal must hope that he does not also prompt the new manager’s bounce.

 

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