FT English Premier League Preview: Can Unai Emery Get Arsenal Back to Top 4

Unai Emery head coach of Arsenal interviews during the International Champions Cup match between Arsenal and Paris Saint Germain at the National Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Singapore. “Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images AsiaPac'“

Unai Emery head coach of Arsenal interviews during the International Champions Cup match between Arsenal and Paris Saint Germain at the National Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Singapore. “Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images AsiaPac'“

Long-serving Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, ended his stay at the helm of the London club in May after leading the team for over 20 years. He pointed out that he did not want things to turn out as they did where the Arsenal fans were seen protesting in the stadiums and some flying planes over the pitch with quotes “#WengerOut” and “Thank you for the memories, but it is time to say goodbye”. The Emirates Stadium became hostile even for the Arsenal players who were bashed by the fans for ‘not being worthy to wear the shirt.’ All these challenges were faced by the club less than three months ago before the club appointed the new head coach, Unai Emery. His task is to make sure that all this does not happen and also make sure that the team performs on the pitch. Here’s how we think he will fair this season.

Since the fans were divided on their opinion over Wenger, the atmosphere created in the stadium did not help the players on the pitch. Now, with the appointment of Emery, we see the fans of Arsenal united once again behind the club, and they look like they are ready to back the manager in this post-Wenger era. The new boss has since thanked the fans for supporting him and asks them to be patient and help the team in the upcoming season. He promised them some entertaining football which is part of the identity of the club. By doing this, he has curbed any form of negativity which affected Arsenal’s performances on the pitch last season. This is an excellent step towards success.

Also, he is dealing away with some aspects of Wengerball which frustrated the fans in recent years. Arsenal was playing sideways passes whenever they ran out of ideas and Unai identified this problem before stepping into the big shoes left by the Arsenal legend. In the recent pre-season friendlies, we have already noticed some changes in the style of play as the club is trying out new things like putting the ball over the top which was hardly seen at the Emirates. New signing Matteo Guendouzi released Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through on goal with a delightful lobbed pass, which the Gabonese forward subsequently failed to convert. Sead Kolasinac also did the same for Mkhitaryan in the match against Paris-Saint Germain, which the London club won 5-1. It is these passes that will cause havoc in the EPL and bring them more goals to the ones they scored last season.

Apart from that, Arsenal conceded the most goals (51) out of all the teams in the top 6 last season. They have had challenges with defending for quite some time now, and captain Koscielny’s injury does not make the situation better. However, Emery with the help of Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi, has invested in new defensive options through the purchases of Stephan Litchsteiner and Sokratis. These players have a defensive mindset and are ready to be physical as opposed to most of the Arsenal players who are very laid back and quoted by Troy Deeney as to be lacking ‘cojones’. The hope is for them to help stop the gaps at the back in the club’s search for a top 4 finish.
 

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Furthermore, coach Emery has introduced a new way of working at the club. He is seen taking the players for double training sessions and spending more time in the gym with them. He believes in having a squad full of players who work hard throughout the 90 minutes. This requires a lot of preparation, and he has been doing just that. When Arsenal played against Boreham Wood, there was a sense of urgency to get back the ball as soon as they lost it which is different from Wenger’s style. The Arsenal team was vulnerable when they lost possession of the ball and were prone to conceding on the counter. Now, they fight as a team to get the ball back before attacking. This style of play is encouraging to see for the Arsenal fans and has raised their hopes as the 2017/18 season draws near. For the first time in years, the Arsenal fans are optimistic that their team will perform well.

It seems as if the boss has identified the weaknesses of the squad and is working on improving them before the season starts. Do you think Arsenal will be ready to push for top 4 finish let alone mount a challenge for the title? Drop your comments below.