Arsenal had a clear prerogative against Tottenham, as Unai Emery was nailing everything tactically, but he made one mistake – only one.
There was a bit of an outcry following the release of Arsenal‘s starting XI because, yet again, Unai Emery had changed up everything. Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sead Kolasinac were all on the bench, despite playing such big roles in the rousing win over Bournemouth.
Yet, when Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey, two of the replacements, combined for the Gunners’ one and only goal, the outcry dulled. And, throughout the course of the match, it transformed into praise.
Because Unai Emery got it absolutely right. His game plan was pinpointed, specific and perfect. He had the exact players that he wanted to have to do the precise job that needed doing and for 90 minutes, it worked to perfection, with one hiccup when the linesman got a call wrong (go figure).
But there was one thing that Unai Emery did wrong – just one. And I only want to draw attention to it because it was so uncharacteristic of him.
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With his last substitution, Emery put Mesut Ozil into a match that was so clearly not friendly to one such as Ozil and passed up the chance to put in Sead Kolasinac, who would have been precisely in his element in this one.
In the process, he took off the undying engine of Aaron Ramsey.
To me, it felt like a favor. Like Emery was giving some respect to Ozil for his positive performances lately, but that is not a very Emery thing to do. He is a practical manager, never taking favorites and certainly not doing anyone any favors.
Ozil was irrelevant from the moment he came on. The match was just too frantic and out of control for him.
Whereas Sead Kolasinac, if subbed on as a left-sided midfielder, would have been licking his chops to be in a match that was so clearly chaotic, one that he could truly fit right into and start enforcing his version of the rule of law (in the form of his bruising runs) on.
Again, Emery called this match to near perfection, but I can’t help scratching my head at his decision to put Ozil in instead of Kolasinac. He took the energy of Ramsey off, which was just icing on the baffling cake, and I wonder if the match wouldn’t have looked much better had he chosen Kolasinac instead, and catered to him.