Sprots

Emery’s incessant tinkering is Arsenal’s hidden strength

In the Premier Leagues current climate, new managers are expected to revolutionise the way their team plays, implementing an attractive style of football and instilling a work ethic that often involves pressing high up the pitch.

Under Unai Emery this season, Arsenal have been accused of failing to follow that blueprint and told that they lack an identity. But as they prepare to face Newcastle tomorrow evening, it could be argued the uncertainty about who and how they will play has become one of their strengths.

Emery has proved himself as unpredictable in his team selection as he is animated on the touchline and although he has been criticised for changing the side too often – and leaving out star players – it cannot be easy for Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez to prepare to face a side that could line up in multiple ways.

Read more: Arsenal 3-0 Rennes: Aubameyang helps Gunners reach Europa League last eight

Like the rest of us, Benitez will have to wait until an hour before kick-off to find out which team Emery selects, but on the evidence of the season to date, it is very unlikely to be the same 11 men who started the 3-0 win against Rennes last time out.

In fact, the Arsenal head coach has only retained the same starting line-up once in 44 games this season – coincidentally, the last time the Gunners faced Newcastle.

That was a trip to St James Park in September following an away win at Cardiff, but on all 42 other occasions this season Emery has selected a different starting XI to the previous game.

If the nickname were not already given to Claudio Ranieri, the Spaniard would certainly be among the candidates deserving of the Tinkerman tag, having also used 31 different players in all competitions.

Emery has only named the same team in consecutive games once at Arsenal (Source: Getty)

But despite accusations that Arsenal are lacking an identity under Emery, there has been an undeniable improvement in results compared with last season.

The Gunners went into this weekend fourth in the Premier League and 12 points better off than at the same stage last year. They are three points off last seasons tally with eight games left and also have a favourable run-in compared with their top-four rivals.

While rotation is an inevitable part of any managers plans, particularly when facing less celebrated opponents in the EFL Cup and Europa League, Emerys tinkering has extended to the Premier League where he has only kept the same line-up in successive games twice.

Aside from that Newcastle match, the other occasion was against West Ham in January after a win against Fulham, but a 1-0 defeat in that fixture may have suggested he has been right to continually freshen it up.

Of course, there have been extenuating circumstances along the way, with long-term injuries to Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin as well as shorter-term problems for Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Henrikh Mkhitaryan forcing changes.

4-2-3-1 v 3-4-1-2

But its not just the line-up that Emery has developed a knack for rotating, with Arsenal having used several different formations this season too.

The 47-year-old started the campaign favouring a 4-2-3-1 but accommodating Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang proved difficult as he resorted to either leaving Lacazette on the bench or playing Aubameyang on the wing.

Arsenal have also deployed a 5-2-3 and 4-3-3 throughout the season – and indeed within the same game – but Emery currently appears to favour a take on 5-2-1-2 or 3-4-1-2, depending on how advanced his wing-backs are.

These wing-baRead More – Source

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