Arsenal: 5 Things We've Learned From Unai Emery and What He Must Fix
It is never easy taking over from a manager who has been in charge of a club and, quite literally, helped build the foundations that have helped it sustain itself. 22 years is a long time at a club and Arsene Wenger was one of the longest-serving football managers in the past 50 years!
Unai Emery wasn't one of the primary candidates for the Arsenal job but when he was given the opportunity to prove his credentials, he impressed the board with his vision and in-depth knowledge of the squad and suddenly the job was his.
Hailing from the Basque Country in Spain, Emery had already proven himself at cash-strapped Valencia and won the Europa League thrice with Sevilla. But Paris Saint-Germain proved to be too big a job considering the number of egos he had to manage in the dressing room.
At Arsenal, he seems to have found himself at home in surroundings that help foster team unity and he has a squad with a willingness to listen to the manager and absorb new ideas.
After a tough start that saw Arsenal lose to Manchester City and Chelsea, Emery has managed to bounce back and the Gunners have since won all six league games. They now sit two points behind the league leaders.
While the improvement is evident, there are also issues that still need to be addressed. Here's what we've learned from his tenure so far.
#1 Arsenal still need to perfect building from the back
Under Emery, the goalkeeper is an extra pair of feet at the back rather than a safe pair of hands. But a lot of criticism was aimed at Emery for trying to teach an old dog new tricks.
36-year-old goalkeeper Petr Cech has for most of his career been a 'keeper that punts the ball forward with a wide range of distribution. So he did find himself in a spot of bother when he had to necessarily play out from the back.
It didn't help him when Emery had two centre-backs who weren't too comfortable with the new tactics either. Time and again, Arsenal were pressed high and kept losing the ball before they could string more than three passes together.
However, Emery has kept at it and the team is slowly coming to grips with the new strategy. The primary reason for this tactic is to draw the opponents in and create space between the lines for midfielders and forwards to exploit.
Bernd Leno's introduction after Cech's injury brought about a sense of calm and his footwork and decision-making is far better than Cech's predictable passing. Emery will not be swayed by pundits with outdated notions and he will only look to improve this aspect of Arsenal's game in the coming months.