As Alexandre Lacazette’s number appeared in the board, boos filled the air in North London as Arsenal fans showed their disapproval of the decision.
The decision by Unai Emery to take off the Frenchman for Aaron Ramsey was not a popular one. Fans felts Lacazette was still contributing. Far more than Alex Iwobi or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
They had been influenced by the media – who had highlighted how often Lacazette gets taken off. They felt it was unfair. That he should finish 90 minutes. The frustration was that he was also the first man to be hooked off.
What the emotional response highlighted was why fans are fans and the manager is in the dugout.
A football manager can not let his emotions, the crowd around him, or the media affect his decision making.
Emery felt Lacazette for Ramsey was the right decision; and Arsenal took the game from 2-1 to 4-1 with Ramsey scoring the 3rd. Aubameyang – who many felt should have been the man to be taken off – scored the 4th.
When the substitution was made, the chap next to me muttered “why are we going negative and defensive”. That comment really summed up the lack of understanding of fans. Ramsey has never been a negative, defensive substation.
Emery fully explained the logic of the change:
“Tactically we thought in that moment we needed to change for more balance. Above all we know Fulham midfielder Jean Michael Seri is coming on and we need a player close to him, not to let him play easily with the ball.
“Ramsey can do that and also help us in attack, and he scored. The reason is this. I need to do my work. And not maybe because every supporter can have a different opinion, tactically.”
By bringing on Ramsey, it meant a formation switch from 433 to 4321.
Ramsey could both press high onto Seri whilst still maintaining an attacking threat. A negative substation would have been bringing Mo Elneny on rather than Ramsey.
Some fans have also moaned that it should have been Iwobi or Aubameyang to come off rather than Lacazette. Again, there are logical reasons why they remained on the pitch.
Emery went to 4321 with Iwobi and Ramsey in behind Aubameyang. Lacazette can not play behind a striker. It is not his game. Neither can Aubameyang. So if you want to switch to that formation, Iwobi must stay on.
There is also logic behind keeping Aubameyang on ahead of Lacazette and it is all about speed.
Aubameyang is quicker than Lacazette. If the game is tight and the opponents are coming on to you, you need to be able to counter punch. Aubameyang on the counter attack ensured that if Arsenal didn’t get that quick 3rd from Ramsey, they would have a threat up top. They would be able to hit Fulham on the break.
It used to infuriate me back in the day when Theo Walcott was taken off when Arsenal had a one goal lead. You want to keep your quickest forward on as the likelihood is the 2 goal lead will come from a break.
Aubameyang moved into the middle, was then a threat with the ball over the top and Ramsey and Iwobi presses high behind him disrupting Fulham’s passing.
Ramsey scored the 3rd. Aubameyang the 4th. Emery’s decision justified.
But still last night, after seeing their side win 4-1, some fans were still moaning about the substitution.