When Unai Emery was relived of his duties and Mikel Arteta was given the monumental task of turning around his former club’s fortunes, many fans voiced their discontent.
Whether Yokohama win the J League this year, the Japanese club is the place that Arsenal need to look at for their new manager.
When Arsene Wenger signed for Arsenal is 1996, he had won a couple of leagues in Ligue 1 and a domestic cup, and then an Emperor’s Cup and a Japanese Super Cup with Nagoya.
If we compare that pre-Arsenal resume with Ange Postecoglou, is not all that far away. Titles with the Roar, Australia and potentially Yokohama makes for a serious CV, but the key factor is the style of football, which no matter where he’s coached is both positive and attractive.
Postecoglou’s time with Australia should be looked back with more affection than it is. He had a significantly shallower talent pool than all the coaches before him with the exception of Holger Osieck, whose inability to call time on a couple of veterans and refusal to trust (or even watch) the A-League as a player source meant that he was choosing old guys not playing regularly.
In his time with the Socceroos, Postecoglou got a squad that was not as good as either Korea’s or Japan’s to win a tournament that is not easy to win, all the while keeping the football as entertaining as could be expected. Even at the Confederations Cup Australia was in with a chance, and that was due to Postecoglou’s belief in his system and his ability to get players to buy in to that system.
His Roar side played with a fluency and tenacity that made them unbeatable for a long time. They also would never lie down, and any Arsenal fan would like to see those traits applied to the current Gunners side.
There are similarities between the Arsenal and Roar squads, too. Mitch Nichols was a lazy creative force that Postecoglou got the best out of, while Mesut Ozil is a lazy creative force that Unai Emery is just trying to get out.
Luke Devere was part Franz Beckenbauer part Shkodran Mustafi – one minute Kaiser, one minute emperor without clothes. David Luiz fits that mould exactly.
Matt Mackay was an energetic midfielder who could always take a pass, which all the Arsenal midfielders seem to be, and the Roar had a dynamic striker in Besart Berisha who could find a goal from anywhere. He’s a little different to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in that pace was not his weapon, but goal-scorers are all the same in the end – vital to any team that wants success.
Postecoglou also used his fullbacks to provide width, and Ivan Franjic was not dissimilar to either Kieran Tierney or Hector Bellerin: a good defender that provided width and a shooting option.
The other key player was Thomas Broich, a brilliant mover of the play, and in Nicholas Pepe Arsenal have a player that can dribble and shoot, carry the ball to the danger zone and bury the ball in the back of the net.
Emery’s Arsenal are more than disjointed and dispirited – they are a team working against their strengths, being forced by a manager to play with no pattern so he can try and find one, and no real vision for what he wants his team to look like, except a disjointed mess that is considerably less than the sum of its parts.
It’s alright not to trust your defence if it is weak, but it is suicidal not to protect that defence, especially when you have a Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira in your squad, who could both provide protection for the defence.
It is crazy to have talents like Ozil – who has an incredible passing range – not playing with an Aubameyang or Pepe who have pace to burn, and Alexandre Lacazette, who gives the whole midfield somewhere safe to pass to and can bring the whole team into the game.
Emery can’t or won’t see this, but I guarantee Postecoglou would.
Postecoglou’s system is not just based on gut-busting runs, but it is based on quick transitions. It is not based on wasting possession and inviting teams to come at you, it is based on running at players to create space, and running into that space.
That’s how you win modern football games, and that is exactly what Arsenal don’t do.
Postecoglou has always done well when he has the talent at his disposal, and sometimes when he hasn’t. Arsenal need a manager that can extract every ounce of talent out of its squad, and Postecoglou has shown in the past and now with Yokohama that he is a hugely talented coach.
And Arsenal need a hugely talented coach who would love the challenge, or they risk becoming irrelevant in a league where clubs with a quarter of their history only need investment and a decent coach to leave them lagging behind.