Happy Wednesday folks. It’s a pre Europa Wednesday and given that we have a massive game against Napoli in about 36 hours from me writing this, I thought I’d be a little more nervous than I am, although I think the first leg is playing a big part of it.
Arsenal are a side who we know ship goals and I’m expecting anything but a clean sheet tomorrow, but what we do know is that they are capable of plenty at the other end, so perhaps that’s also in my psyche ahead of tomorrow night’s game.
One goal. One goal for Arsenal could have a massive impact. Not least because it leaves Napoli needing to score four and whilst that is not beyond the realms of possibility, you would hope that Emery is capable of putting up a side who can shut out the Neopolitans. Of course we know that he’s sh*t the bed with PSG before away to Barcelona a few years back, but surely he’s learned from that?
I think I’m making myself more nervous just talking about that result and the possibility of history repeating itself from the Spaniard. But what we can say is that Emery has shown he can learn on the job this season and that’s why I’m hopeful that we won’t get a repeat of that situation tomorrow night.
You only have to look at the two United home games to see how Emery is able to quickly adapt. In the FA Cup tie there may have been mitigating circumstances but tactically our set up played in to United hands. They played us well on the counter and caught us out. But in the league game a few weeks later Emery has learned his lesson. He’d seen how United set up and ensured that we were set up with bodies in the right areas of the pitch to deal with their threat. We scored early which also helped, but the players still executed his plan well enough to get the three points, so the manager rightly deserved kudos.
What he needs to do tomorrow night is show that he learned from that second half. Napoli needed that away goal and put us under a little more pressure. We were equal too it and I still maintain that I felt more comfortable than perhaps I should have been, but the way the game panned out felt like it was a perfect home first leg result. The key is making sure we can replicate the form tomorrow.
Emery has been managing the squad well of late and whilst the subs baffled a little against Watford, when you look at who he brought off and who didn’t start, it feels very much like he was managing the Watford game with Thursday in mind. Kolasinac didn’t play and so will be fresh, the same for Lacazette, whilst Maitland-Niles and Torreira both only played 45 minutes. Ramsey and Özil shared 45 minutes and the result is that we should have a team of players who are all a little fresher than they might have been under the old manager, who would have kept things as they are for most of the Watford game.
That’s where Emery looks to have been very impressive for me this season, because he’s managed certain players very well and as a result it feels like we have a fresher squad than we normally have at this time of the season, perhaps even more fresher than most other teams in European and domestic competition. If that sends us deeper into the Europa League than tomorrow night and secures is Champions League success through domestic league position, then we have to applaud him for the season.
Of course it could all be very different in a few weeks so we need to hold the applause until we get ourselves in to May/June. Let’s hope we are cheering the manager though because that means we’ve all had a great season and reasons to be cheerful. Whether he has intended for it to have gone the way it has – with Ramsey ostracised for contractual reasons then coming back in, or Özil our because the club couldn’t move him on in January – remains to be seen. Some of his selection decisions seemed crazy in December, January and February but the fact he’s now reverted back to a system that is seeing us win and progress through all competitions so far, means we’re all hopeful that we’re seeing a side fresher and maybe he’s had a big part to play in that during the season. Either by luck or judgement.
There’ll be a press conference at some stage today so I’d be interest to see what Unai says about player availability for the game. Hopefully we’ve got a full compliment (long term injuries aside).
Catch you tomorrow.