The three moves Unai Emery should make this January to push Arsenal into top four
When Unai Emery was announced as Arsene Wenger's successor at the end of the 2017/18 season, he was to receive the first bad news when the new season fixtures were announced. He was in for the baptism of fire - literally as he was to face Manchester City and Chelsea in the first two games. And of course, Arsenal started their 2018/19 season suffering two season-opening defeats their two direct rivals for the trophy.
Unai Emery then took The Gunners into a tremendous run of 22 matches unbeaten in all competitions. At the height of this remarkable feat, Arsenal went into an 11 win run and threatened a sustained bid for the EPL title, an unlikely situation based on the multiple pre-season predictions.
However, in the last 6 matches, Arsenal has played in all competitions, they have won just 2, drew 1 and lost 3. They scored 11 times and conceded 13 times. Currently, in 5th place, Arsenal is now 7 points adrift of Tottenham and 3 points adrift of Chelsea. They are facing a possible demotion to 6th with Manchester United on a purple patch after firing Jose Mourinho and hiring Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and who are now just three points behind them. It sounds like the all too familiar collapse of Arsenal of the Arsene Wenger era never left them. And despite a new manager, defensive fragility remains most critical.
Nevertheless, having managed to bring in Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi during the summer transfer window to redress the central midfield area, was testament enough that Unia was a shrewd manager and would use transfers to address the challenges in the squad, unlike Arsene whose business looked unstrategic as far as the needs of the squad was concerned. Emery can now use the January transfer window to redress other inadequacies in the squad in order to ensure top-four finish this season.
Here is how Emery can use this January including the transfer period to ensure Arsenal climb back to top four and stay there.
#3. A change in tactics.
Emery has deployed several patterns but the most notable feature has been either back four of back three.
With four defenders Arsenal have mostly deployed 4-2-3-1 which has meant that he has to choose one of his superb attacking duo of Lacazette or Aubameyang in front, while the other plays further from the goal starts from the bench altogether.
With three in the back, Emery has to deploy wingbacks. Kolasinac, Bellerin, and lately, Ainsley Maitland-Niles have found some form playing in these roles. However, it is clear that with injuries on these players, Arsenal has struggled to replace them. Maitland-Niles has helped out in the right wingback role and, in some cases, the defense, but on the left wingback, Kolasinac seems to be the only viable option and he is too inconsistent. Furthermore, he doesn't put up the optimal defensive work needed to be an undisputed success in this role.
Whatever Emery has to do, he must ensure the pattern he adopts has Aubameyang and Lacazette starting together in center-forward attacking roles. The two have an understanding and selflessness with the potential to develop into the best ever attacking duo, only akin to what Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry was, and that is a lot of goals.