THE RECIPE FOR IDENTITY – When Emery Plays his best players in their best positions and to their strengths

Positives, Needs & Hopes from Arsenal 5 Bournemouth 1

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          The Recipe for Identity


As a coach I have always held the belief that your identity should be a by product of your ability to find the best system for your best players enabling them to play their best. 

I’m not a fan of having a ‘coaching style’ if that means that I implement it regardless of whether I have the players to do so.

My admiration for Pep Guardiola is founded in the fact that he has played in 3 different ways in 3 different countries.
My frustration over the last 11 years at Arsenal was that Wenger played one way without full consideration to his players.
In my coaching job I do the following and in this order…
A) Who are my best players?
B) What system should I play to emphasize their best qualities?
 From this my identity evolves as opposed to asking them to adapt to ‘my system’ because I feel most comfortable teaching it.
On one team my identity became ‘counter attacking’ as I had a boy who was gifted at playing balls over the top of a high line and another boy quicker than Flash who had the space to use his pace.
This year our identity has changed.
My team are strong in wide areas. Our identity has therefore evolved into  finding them early to give 1v1 opportunities, attacking defenders on the outside, cutting in to a group of clinical one touch finishers.
In our fantasies we all coach Arsenal.
If I did I would look at the current playing staff and ask myself….
1) Are we playing to Auba’s strength?
I’d say no, until I saw his goal tonight.
He is at his best when running on to through balls and finishing in the six yard box at the back post.
2) If I decide to play Ozil, do I spend endless sessions getting frustrated at his work ethic or do I say to my players, ‘ This guy has a special talent. In order to use this he has to be allowed to trail the play rather than get back goal side. He is our transition target. If you guys want some defensive relief you need an outlet in front of you not next to you ‘putting in a shift.’
Guendouzi would benefit from the same ability to find Auba over the top or through.
3) Mkhi was once and has the talent to be one of Europe’s best. He was before. He was at his best when he was running with the ball breaking the lines from deep positions. See Auba’s goal.
That becomes his main job. I must have a system that allows him to do this.
I haven’t even touched on Lacazette and others yet.
I like the high press idea but at Arsenal we don’t have all the pieces for it.
What if we played a midfield press, let their defenders have it but give these 3 guys the system that promotes their best talents?
 Mkhi can win deeper and penetrate through the midfield and have space for the slot pass, Ozil doesn’t have to press high but is now given space behind the defence to play his balls and Auba has 40 yards to run into.
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and AFC Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on February 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

(Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

That is an identity that would fit these 3 potentially top players.
This season we designed a system to largely fit Kolasinac.
He isn’t and shouldn’t be one of our best players and we shouldn’t build around him.
Tonight was an adrenaline rush of BEST as all 3 of these players gave us a glimpse or four of what an identity based on players and not a coach could do!


* If Arsenal and Chelsea win this weekend then there are four points between four teams fighting for third and fourth.
Where did that come from!?!
* Football is memories.
When I decide to move on from football (never), I will remember this inconsistent genius who played for our club that invented a way to baffle the goalie by hitting the ball into the ground and over him. Great memory.
* Another quick start.
* Quicker passing in transition is back!
* The performance of a real captain in Laurent Koscielny.
His block to deny a certain goal coupled with his ‘I’ve still got pace’ sprint in the last few minutes and a generally fantastic performance.
* As I said in my last blog, it looks like someone at Arsenal has given our players the ‘step up or be gone’ speech.
Mkhi did not dip in and out of the game. Fully involved and highly efficient.
* Carl Jenkinson… you keep us all dreaming, man. Well done!
* Mesut Ozil… you could be the conductor that drives us to a top four finish. You were what we’ve missed for months. So, if you enjoyed tonight, hit repeat at least 3 out of 4 games rather than 1 out of 4.
* Sokratis sitting down at least two players in the wall for Lacazette.
* Lucas Torreira sniffs out danger and looks like a guy who does this because he wants to, not because he’s told to.
* A fit squad, options, organic accountability for performance.


* There is a need to recognize the ‘danger player.’
This is the guy that could turn your press into a desperate chase.
A press has to be coordinated and if one guy is slightly off then this guy, alone in acres, can be found.
Bournemouth didn’t punish this but press ‘pause’ on a few occasions tonight and you’ll see the potential for trouble.
* Credit to Eddie Howe who sees the glaring weakness in Guendouzi’s game…. his lack of awareness to get out of trouble with one touch and his comfort in holding onto the ball in dangerous areas and play with fire.
It’s confidence of sorts. I get it. It’s just not in the teams best interests.
Not a priority for Guendouzi but his dribbling technique is too vertical.
When he runs with the ball he loses his balance. Needs a lower posture.
* Often when the ball is played up to Lacazette the drop pass is too far away to take advantage of the space left by the defender.


* Would LOVE for Koscielny and Sokratis to be the partnership until the end of the season. Easily our best pairing.
* Give Suarez time. Coaches often tell new players to be intentionally unspectacular when you start. It’s smarter to take less risks and slowly grow in confidence than lose it amongst the frustrations of the impatient fans.
He is currently exclusively dribbling laterally but his ‘Limpar like feet and style’ should lead to a more direct dribbler.
* Nathan Ake was not at his best but he is a younger Koscielny. Wouldn’t cost as much as the ‘new £50M + Centre Back trend.’


I have a feeling that our fluidity and freedom returning is directly related to how our players feel about the security of having Koscielny and Sokratis behind them.
Momentum tells me that Arsenal need to play with this freedom on Saturday.
I just hope that Emery doesn’t squash this freedom and fluidity by over thinking and being too cautious!
If you like these blogs, follow …. @mike_mmcdonald and @GunnersTown

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One Response to THE RECIPE FOR IDENTITY – When Emery Plays his best players in their best positions and to their strengths

  1. omar February 28, 2019 at 1:09 pm #

    Excellent analyst of the game Mike really enjoyed the read

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