Is Farke’s Norwich the blueprint for Emery’s success at Arsenal?
Unai Emery’s time at Arsenal so far has polarised opinion. For the majority of the last few months, Arsenal has found themselves on the cusp a Champions League place but have struggled to break into the top four after a spell of inconsistent form.
A number of recurring injuries to the likes of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Sokratis, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac, Granit Xhaka, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Lucas Torreira and the on-going fitness issues of Mesut Özil have made it hard to field a consistent team selection and defensive frailties (something that most believed we’d see big differences in under Emery’s more pragmatic approach) haven’t made any tangible improvements so far.
However, players returning to fitness slowly has galvanised Emery’s team who have now won four out of our last five premier league games. Before Arsenal’s latest 5-1 home victory over Bournemouth, Unai Emery said that he felt the team were warming to his ideas and methods which will be music to Arsenal fan’s ears.
Hopes for top four
Next up for the Gunners is a trip to old rivals Spurs at Wembley who have lost their last two games followed by Manchester United at the Emirates – a potential six-pointer that could be our biggest of the season.
No matter what happens between now and the end of the season the task for Emery will be building on this campaign to make the team into a consistent force for Champion’s League places and beyond – but the blueprint could’ve already been written for him from an unlikely source.
Daniel Farke: Savior of the Canaries
Norwich City was last in the premier league in 2016. They only lasted a year and since their relegation, they have dropped into the weird limbo that the Championship can be.
On the 25th of May 2017, the Canaries turned to German coach, Daniel Farke to take up the helm following an impressive two-year spell with the Dortmund youth team. Noticeably Farke took over from David Wagner, who had just got Huddersfield promoted to the Premier League through the playoffs a few months prior.
Daniel Farke’s first season at Norwich was largely mediocre and is probably most known for his famous bust-up with Portuguese striker Nélson Oliveira. Farke left Oliveira on the bench for their Championship tie vs Fulham, when Oliveira came off the bench to score a late equaliser he ripped off his shirt and gestured angrily towards Farke for being left on the bench.
Farke later played this altercation down and continued to use the striker over the course of the season but since he was demoted to play with Norwich’s u23 team before joining Reading on loan.
The main high of Farke’s first season would’ve been the outstanding form of James Maddison. Farke gave Maddison regular starts to the player that had only played three league games prior to Farke’s arrival and the young attacking midfielder had a fantastic season. He scored 14 goals in the league from an attacking midfield berth and won the Norwich player of the season whilst being nominated for the Championship young player of the season.
Despite Maddison’s brilliance, Norwich’s league form left a lot to be desired. They finished 14th, 39 points off of first place Wolves and after Maddison left for a reported £22m to Leicester and the highly rated Josh Murphy left for £10m to Cardiff it would’ve been hard to see Norwich improving their league position, especially as they’re incomings added up to a reported £4.91m in total.
A dynamic duo
It’s the outstanding work of Daniel Farke and director of football Stuart Webber that has seen Norwich defy all the odds and predictions. A situation that Arsenal could be hoping Emery will recreate if the links to Monchi joining as a technical director do materialise.
Farke and Webber signed Finnish international striker Teemu Pukki on a free transfer from Brondby who has gone on to score 24 goals in his first 34 appearances for Norwich. Pukki was joined by Moritz Leitner from FC Augsburg (£1.35m), Philip Heise from Dynamo Dresden (£225k), Tim Krul from Brighton (Free transfer), Emiliano Buendia from Getafe (£1.35m after a successful loan spell), Ben Marshall from Wolves (£1.53m), Felix Passlack from Dortmund (Loan deal) and Jordan Rhodes from Sheffield Wednesday (Loan deal).
These signings were shrewd, calculated and have changed the outlook of Norwich’s team completely. Combining this with stellar youth prospects in wingbacks Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons and centre-back Ben Godrey have given Norwich an immense positive vibe. Farke has successfully alienated anyone he believed to be bad influences whilst working with Stuart Webber to give him the player profiles he needs, and now the players are reaping the benefits of buying into his methods.
Emery and Farke: Reading from the same book?
In 2017 Daniel Farke is quoted talking about his philosophy in The Independent as saying:
“If you want a short answer, it’s about being dominant. I want our players to be protagonists on the pitch. I don’t like my teams just to be compact and to react, I like to act.”
A statement that holds almost exactly the same meaning as Emery’s quote saying he wants his team to always be protagonists.
Even Farke’s tactical style isn’t dissimilar from Emery’s. His team plays in a 4-2-3-1 and situationally press teams to recover the ball in dangerous areas. Both wingers come into narrow positions to allow both Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons to get much higher up the pitch – something that has been echoed in Emery’s use of both Bellerin and Kolasinac.
When off the ball they like to defend in a mid or low block which allows them more space to hit teams in transition. Norwich also prefers to play with two deep-lying midfielders in Leitner and Tettey that cover the flanks when the wingbacks do venture forward.
Another tactic similar to Emery’s is they like to engineer their own counter attacks. They rotate the ball between the goalkeeper, centre backs and deep-lying midfielders in an attempt to influence teams to press them – when they are pressed they use quick interchanging passes to unlock vertical passing angles that release their onrushing attacking quartet who are supported by the wingbacks.
Teemu Pukki’s first goal vs Bolton Wanderers’ in a 4-0 away victory went viral and saw Norwich play quickly and calmy around a wave of Bolton pressure before finding a string of impressive vertical passes that ended up releasing Pukki who turned his man inside out and slotted it past the keeper at his near post. You can draw parallels between this goal and Aaron Ramsey’s goal vs Fulham or Aubameyang’s goal vs Leicester.
Trust the process
Although Emery and Mislintat’s working relationship was very short-lived it still has paid some dividends. Summer signings like Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi have been instant hits and if Emery and possibly Monchi were to replicate that with a few signings in the summer we could possibly see a similar shift in fortunes for Arsenal.
Norwich kept absolute faith in Daniel Farke’s vision and through it, they have built an impressive infrastructure of new youth facilities and a well oiled playing squad that they are reaping the rewards of pretty much immediately.
Arsenal seems to be giving Emery the same treatment and if that’s the case there should be genuine positivity that Emery can build a team that digs Arsenal out of the rut we’ve been in the last few seasons and takes us back where the club belongs, in England’s elite.