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Would Arsenal Be Making the Same Mistake By Hiring Marcelino?


“He’s a good coach.” The words of Jon Driscoll, host of La Liga Weekly, appearing on The Gooner Talk’s Managerial Tactical Breakdown show. But the question remains, would Marcelino be just another Emery?

It is true though, the Spaniard is a very good coach, he took a Valencia side bereft of confidence and identity back into the Champions League during his first season. A feat which Arsenal fans will be desperate for the coach who takes over at the Emirates to achieve. So why then is there such a trend to immediately disregard Marcelino as a credible option?

Firstly, communication. Marcelino, whilst learning, is not an English-speaking coach. In fact, rather unlike Emery, Marcelino has never managed outside of his home nation. Whilst his coaching methods and style are clearly visible, especially during his last two spells, the simple fact that he would struggle to communicate coherently to the many non-Spanish speakers, is plenty to turn fans off from the Spaniard.

During the final years under Wenger a giant wedge separated the fan base, that chasm was united under Emery except the unanimous view was not one of support and backing, but one of distain and frustration. The “Good Ebening” meme became a regular feature in both mainstream and social media and it would be unwise of the Arsenal hierarchy to risk a coach whose communication was once again at the forefront of possible reservations.

Secondly is the style. Emery arrived at Arsenal with a misunderstood view of his coaching. Thought of as a ‘defensive’ coach by many, it quickly surprised and even enraged many Gunner supporters to see the continual stream of defensive errors and mistakes leading to dropped points. In fact, Emery is better known for a counter-attacking style, bled from a more reserved game of allowing opposition teams to make mistakes before administering an interception or tackle to then hit sides on the break.

Having witnessed 22 years of possession-based, free-flowing football this style was met with much animosity. And it is a style which the aforementioned Marcelino does have some mirrored features of. The Spaniard does like his teams to hit strongly on the counter. Marcelino’s success in his first season equipping this style was helped by the situation in which he found his club. Less regarded as one of the powerhouses of Spanish football, Valencia were a sleeping giant, vulnerable to almost any Primera Division opposition. Can you see the parallels yet?

However, unlike an Arsenal side ill-equipped to implement tactics of this nature, the likes of Rodrigo and Goncalo Guedes thrived on it. Teams were stunned by Valencia’s ferocity and power and often caught with a false sense of security. Were Marcelino to take the reins at Arsenal, it is much less likely the playing staff suitable for this effort would be available to him.

There is however separation from Emery. Marcelino has improved the defensive side of Valencia’s game and not simply with acquisitions but by improving existing talent. Former Arsenal bulldozer Gabriel Paulista was a shrewd signing and became an example of the Spaniard’s impact on defensive players. The Brazilian, often criticised for his rashness in England became a dependable figure for the Mestella faithful. Ruben Vezo and Jeison Murillo often partnered Gabriel and to great effect keeping 12 clean sheets across the 17/18 La Liga season.

A further difference is noticed in the formation which Marcelino deploys. Whilst Emery has opted for a plethora of formations from a 4-3-3 to incorporating a midfield diamond, Marcelino used a cut and dry flat 4-4-2. This allowed for solid recovery in the middle of the park to then turn quick on the counter with the wide players feeding the forwards quickly to hurt opposition teams.

Arsenal fans have seen both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang play together in differing circumstances, with differing outcomes. However, there is a large majority who would agree that when operating as a front two, this is when they are at their least effective. Both suit the sole striker role with support from wide positions to create the optimum balance and chance creation type – especially in the Gabonese forward’s case.

The arrival of Marcelino would almost certainly spell the end for at least one or even two of those front men were they not willing to once again play in a system not akin to their preference.

To summarise, we end where we began, there is no doubting that Marcelino is a “good coach.” In fact, a very good coach. However, the circumstances which he would find himself in at the Emirates are just far too specific with a supporter base lacking enough patience to allow for a slow integration and shift to the Spaniard’s methods. The alternative is a move to Merseyside, whilst the communication will be a challenge, maybe the affordance of time and openness to a coach of his talents and style would make him better suited to the Everton squad.

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