Unai Emery explained his preferred formations in a recent interview with Marti Perarnau, which could indicate how he intends Arsenal to line-up next season.
Speaking after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, Emery explained his philosophy of taking the game to your opponent and winning the ball back as quickly as possible.
“What I like is provoking the opponent,” he said, as translated by GFFN. “It’s a more aggressive idea, which exposes you more. Bielsa’s style, Guardiola’s style.
“When you lose the ball, you win it back as quickly as possible. Anywhere the ball may be, the team has to position themselves to press and win it back. If play stops, everyone goes back to their position. If the ball is in play, we press, all while remaining organised tactically.
“Those are my two outlooks from a defensive point of view. If the ball is in play, you press. If play stops, you reposition yourself.”
This then led the 46-year-old onto the formations which best allow him to play his football.
“For me, the 4-1-4-1 is the system which facilitates that type of pressing,” he explained. “The 4-4-2 is designed more and more for zonal positioning. It’s less aggressive, but is more difficult to get past. That’s the case with Marcelino’s teams, Quique Sanchez Flores’ teams, Saint-Étienne when we last played them…
“I am not ruling out the possibility of a 4-4-2. That’s not the idea that I privilege, but if it allows me to be more competitive, then I’ll go towards it without hesitating.
“We sometimes used it in Sevilla. I would put Banega in a playmaker position, and have him move to the second striker position without the ball. With two strong, physical players behind him, it provided me with the necessary cohesion to press.”
What does this mean for Arsenal?
If Emery ends up choosing a 4-1-4-1, it’s less likely we’ll see Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the same team.
They were very effective playing in a front three towards the end of last season, but that was mostly because they had the freedom to rotate and move around the pitch.
In a 4-1-4-1, Aubameyang would probably end up right out on the left, and wouldn’t have as many opportunities to come into the centre and get on the end of chances.
If the new head coach ends up choosing a 4-4-2, though, the two players could lead the line together. The only issue is that Arsenal don’t have two “strong physical players” to play behind them. Granit Xhaka is one, but that’s pretty much it in the current squad.
Emery certainly has some decisions to make before the start of the new season in August.