There is still quite a lot of confusion and ambiguity surrounding Unai Emery’s opinion on many of the Arsenal players. Saturday’s trip to West Ham United, however, will offer a little peek into his thinking.
No one knew what Unai Emery thought of the squad that he was inheriting at Arsenal when he arrived in the summer. Even when the first game of the season came around, a home match against champions Manchester City, it was clear that Emery was still figuring out how many of the players would — or wouldn’t — fit into his plans.
That figuring-out process is still ongoing now. It will be ongoing this summer. And next season. And the season after that. But almost six months into his first season at the Emirates, it would be fair to say that we don’t really know what Emery thinks about many of these players.
More from Pain in the Arsenal
It was too early to draw any substantial conclusions early on in the season. He had not even formed his plans in his head, nevermind laying them out on the pitch. And then, when November and December rolled around and the normal rhythms of the season began, a swathe of injuries to key players at various positions forced Emery into some rather intrusive selection surgery. Again, no conclusions could really be drawn here.
So when Arsenal travel to West Ham United at Saturday lunchtime with almost a completely fit squad, bar those that are already done for the year and the odd player here and there, it will be extremely interesting to see what Emery’s team selection will be. In fact, I might go as far as to say that the XI he picks for West Ham could be the most interesting one of the whole season to date.
What formation will he choose? A back three or a back four? Will he select a midfield diamond, a central pair, or a 4-3-3 with two proper wingers? Do both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick start? Who is the number one left-back? What pair does he trust the most at centre-half? These are just some of the questions to which answers will be slightly unveiled on Saturday.
Want your voice heard? Join the Pain In The Arsenal team!
Write for us!
Now, obviously, one team selection does not provide even a remotely comprehensive answer to such layered and broad questions. And with some of the presumed starters only having returned to full training this week, it could be that Emery’s hand is still forced a little by the fitness of his players.
But it will provide a small peek into Emery’s mind. Nacho Monreal, for instance, may well have lost his starting spot. But as of writing, we don’t know that for sure. We don’t know whether Mesut Ozil is trusted in a game that isn’t at the Emirates?
We may well get answers, at least in part, to some of these questions on Saturday. And that will shape the future of Arsenal. Unai Emery is the moulder and sculptor of this club. What he thinks is the most important element of every decision that is made, and Saturday’s match against West Ham will provide us with a small peek into his mind.