Wondering why Unai Emery needs to go? The answer is in the headline.
Back in the mid-00s, the Premier League was dominated by the manager. Alex Ferguson was still competing with Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho.
This was when ‘the manager’ was popular. Since then a new breed has emerged, that of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. Both of these men are men who coach the player to improve, not just someone who gets the best out of the current players level through tactics and man-management.
Nowadays it is so much more.
Thursday morning’s Carabao Cup tie featured a heavyweight clash: Arsenal versus Liverpool. A game steeped in history, just in this competition alone there have been some classics.
There was the 1987 final where Arsenal came back from a goal down to win their first-ever league cup thanks to a Charlie Nicholas double, or the 6-3 game at Anfield in 2006 where Julio Baptista scored four goals on route to another final.
The 2019 edition featured another modern-day classic, with ten goals shared, and one which will have raised the morning heart rates of Australian fans much more effectively than a cup of coffee. This was, however, a game that featured a team with a system versus a collection of talented players.
Liverpool played how they play in the Premier League, with arguably none of their first eleven. Divock Origi, the Belgian international, has been an important squad player during Klopp’s time, even scoring in a Champions League final, but is nevertheless used as a back-up for their first-choice front three.
Similarly, James Milner has always been a trusted lieutenant for Klopp and Joe Gomez can fill in at either centre-back or fullback, but neither start as first-choice since the arrivals of Virgil Van Dijk and Fabinho.
Aside from that Liverpool fielded three more fringe players, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Adam Lallana, all of whom are pushing for first team-berths but for the reason of injury and the form of their rivals are still only squad players.
The remaining team lining up against Arsenal were five kids that most people outside of Liverpool supporters have heard of, a 17-year-old Dutch centre-back, or a sixteen-year-old that has made the headlines off the pitch for mocking Harry Kane.
Then you look at the bench, more kids, I’m not a Liverpool fan but I glanced at the names and had never heard of any of them.
On the other hand, you have the Arsenal team, featuring Arsenal’s longest-serving player in goal, Emilio Martinez; their best right-back over the last five years and whom has worn the shirt on 183 occasions, a German World Cup-winning centre-back, alongside Rob Holding who played in the 2017 FA Cup-winning side and can no longer be counted as a prospect, with Premier League regular Sead Kolasinac making up the defence at left-back.
Then in midfield, there was Lucas Torreira the Uruguayan international playing alongside Willock and Saka, all of whom have featured heavily this season under Emery in the Premier League and Ainsley Maitland-Niles who is approaching 100 games and who has featured in around 30 in each of the last two seasons.
Upfront we fielded the highly talented Brazilian striker Martinelli who has already scored five goals in four of his starts, albeit not in the Premier League, but his appearances in the Europa League have been impressive. Finally, completing the team sheet was Arsenal’s fourth most expensive signing of all time, the World Cup-winning, former Real Madrid magician that is also currently Arsenal’s highest-paid player, Mesut Ozil.
Just with this knowledge, before glancing at the Gooners bench, Arsenal should win this 11 v 11 match on talent and experience alone.
However bringing in the bench to compare with Liverpool’s unknowns, you have Real Madrid loanee Ceballos, the French international striker Alex Lacazette, the all-action midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, record signing Nicolas Pepe, new Scottish signing Kieran Tierney, and current first-choice centre-back Sokratis. Now comparing the game-day squads, it makes Arsenal not winning this game completely inexcusable.
However, Liverpool have a coach, whereas Arsenal have a manager.
Klopp coaches his players, then installs a system for his playing staff to slot seamlessly into this system. When you see how Liverpool play with Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Georginio Wijnaldum in the Premier League, it is the same way in which Milner, Origi and the young stars attempted to play against Arsenal. Liverpool now have a brand and Klopp coaches his players to fit into this manner of playing.
On the other hand, Arsenal possess a list full of talented individuals who Emery ‘manages’ to put on the field each week, none of whom seem to know or agree on how they are going to play.
Watching this game it was a throwback to the Wenger era of swashbuckling football, all our attack, fast-paced, aggressive, counter-attacking football. Completely different to this playing it out from the back style, which I hate and was pleased not to see today, but this is a problem as to why do the team keep changing its style and its identity.
Why completely change our style for the Cup?
The players don’t know the system and appear not to have been coached.
Arsenal were winning 3-1, 4-2 and then 5-4, but this team could not close this Liverpool reserve side down. Yes their kids were impressive and Milner, Origi and Gomez had the experience to drive the kids forward, but a team packed full of World Cup winners should have enough nous to shut this side down.
But this is where Klopp does his magic, he has taken players like Andy Robertson and turned them into world-class fullbacks. Oxlade-Chamberlain is an even easier example as he was a player who at Arsenal saw his career plateau, but his goals both tonight and last week in the Champions League highlight that players need to be coached and they can improve and fit into a system.
Except for Guendouzi, of whom nobody knew anything about as he was playing in Ligue 2 before Arsenal, there is nobody who has improved or reached their potential since Emery has arrived.
This is the sad fact and why Emery, the manager, needs to be replaced by a coach, a man who will install an identity to Arsenal and improve how the players play to fit into this identity.
All Emery did last night was to steal an out-dated identity, that of Arsene Wenger’s latter years, which was sadly littered with failure despite being entertaining to watch.
He has been at the club for eighteen months now and needs to go. Not because this is a results business or because of a knee jerk reaction, its simply because to give Arsenal the reset they need, they require a coach, not a manager