Arsenal have been heavily criticised for their performances in away games, with many believing that Unai Emery still has a lot of work to do to correct the failures of the previous regime in North London.
The Gunners have suffered away from home in 2019, a trend very similar to that of early 2018 and the final months of Arsene Wenger’s long reign. Arsenal have played 17 away games, winning six of those, drawing four and losing seven. If the Premier League table was based just on away results alone, Arsenal would be 9th, behind Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Watford.
The form has been poor of late, with recent defeats to Everton, Wolves, and a very sloppy 1-0 victory at 10-man Watford which they could easily have lost.
In regards to the home form, meanwhile, the North Londoners would sit in third behind Manchester City and Liverpool who are currently fighting it out for the title.
Many put this inconsistency down to mentality, but there’s more to it than that.
The argument that Arsenal “don’t fancy it”away from home is thrown around, but this seems a lazy explanation.
So what’s the issue? Ultimately, Arsenal’s poor results are consistent with Emery’s tactical mistakes, which highlight his occasional inability to prepare his side for tricky away fixtures.
The idea that this is just a mental-block is wrong, as is the claim that it’s spilled over from the previous regime. It’s been forgotten that Arsene Wenger boasted a fantastic away record for Arsenal not too long ago, with his side winning 10 of 19 games and losing just five in 2014-15 (bettered only by champions Chelsea and Manchester City). This is along with having the joint-best away record in the league in 2013-14.
This problem is not a cultural one. Let’s not forget Emery’s 22-match unbeaten run, in which he went unbeaten in nine away games in that time. Emery prepares meticulously for every match, and some performances suggest that to be the case. But his constant tinkering at half-time also suggests that sometimes he’s not truly prepared his tactical plan perfectly, and is often looking to rectify his errors.
For example, he led with a 3-5-2 at Everton with Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny starting, a formation with personnel that encourages a more pragmatic style of play. This played into Everton’s hands, who love to press under Marco Silva, and they embraced Arsenal’s guarded approach. Against Wolves, Emery opted for a 4-2-3-1 and played on the front-foot, though Wolves have been renowned all season for their counter-attacks and therefore picked off Arsenal easily.
Emery simply didn’t prepare his teams well enough and went for the wrong approach on these occasions. From the style of the opposition to the dimensions of the pitch, Emery needs to learn and set his team up appropriately, rather than worrying about overcoming a mental block.
It could be argued these problems are purely a myth by highlighting the Gunners’ performance at Stamford Bridge, their draw 1-1 with Tottenham at Wembley, draw at Old Trafford and victory over Napoli in Italy. Emery’s simply getting it right sometimes, but not often enough.
The long list of poor away results is purely a coincidence – it’s not a reflection of supposed ‘cultural problems’ or the remains from the ‘previous regime’. It’s a tactical problem that with time, Emery should learn to get right.