Unai Emery's reign at Arsenal has been characterised by tactical tinkering
Unai Emery’s reign at Arsenal has been characterised by tactical tinkering (Picture: Getty)

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith claims he has ‘heard whispers’ that several Arsenal players have been left confused by Unai Emery’s tactics.

The Spaniard’s reign has so far been characterised by constant tinkering, both in terms of formations and personnel.

Arsenal began last season with a flat back four but Emery soon reverted to a five-man defence in an attempt to optimise the attacking qualities of Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac.

Although injuries and new signings have been partly responsible, Emery has failed to name the same starting XI consecutively this season and his game plan for the recent defeat at Liverpool drew criticism after he afforded rampaging full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Any Robertson the freedom of Anfield.

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‘What, for instance, constitutes Emery’s best midfield combination?’ Smith wrote in his Evening Standard column.

‘Does he persist with a three or change formation slightly to incorporate a No10 in the shape of Dani Ceballos or Mesut Ozil?

‘On the evidence so far, something needs to change. Because as well as Arsenal played going forward in the second half against Tottenham, that midfield offered scant protection to a back four in need of plenty. Every time the visitors sprang forward they looked really dangerous, encouraged by loads of space in the middle ground.

‘Maybe it is down to a lack of understanding. I have heard whispers, after all, that some of the players find their manager’s instructions confusing, that they do not really know what he wants them to do. If so, that does not bode well. A clarity of purpose is essential.’

‘I thought the studious Emery would have made improvements long before now. For someone who spends untold hours personally cutting up video of the opposition to show his ­players, you would have thought we would have seen a more organised reaction to ­losing the ball.’

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