Is Unai Emery the solution to Arsenal's problems?
Unai Emery, the former PSG, Sevilla, and Valencia manager has been appointed as the new Arsenal head coach. In various ways, he is welcome at Arsenal. It seems that Emery is the exact cure for what Arsenal has been suffering from.
He was announced to the public by Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis, comes with a record of three Europa Leagues in a row with Sevilla, as well as the Ligue 1 and domestic cups with PSG.
He clearly has the pedigree and tactical nous to manage a club of Arsenal's standing. But what can be expected from him? And how can the club progress and solve its persistent on the pitch issues?
From various angles, he brings attention to detail, strong analysis, direct coaching, and continuous development. He is the young manager the club needs, and he also has a good record of success. Unlike a certain manager at Arsenal's good friends nearby, he has actually won a trophy as a manager. Moreover, the issue of his poor English is moot, since he presented himself very well at his opening press conference. Seemingly, he can communicate well with the team, coaching staff, and the board.
Whilst Wenger is an eternal legend at Arsenal, there were some evident issues at the club in the latter part of his tenure, namely:
- Poor mentality
- Poor off the ball work
- Bad defending
- Persistent and unresolved tactical issues
Emery, from his press conference earlier on Wednesday, has seemingly said he can counter these points. He didn’t say these directly, but then it’s clear that the teams' style will differ somewhat, vis-a-vis the great man’s 22 years in charge.
So how will Emery's medicine ease Arsenal's troubles?:
Emery supposedly watches countless videos of other teams. OK, most managers do this. Wenger did this, in fairness. However, he gets his team to watch them and produces a thorough game plan based on his findings.
It’s been said for years that Arsenal needs this level of meticulousness and attention to detail, and it will go down well at this point in time.
Sid Lowe, a noted British journalist who specialises in La Liga, offered the following points on Emery's methods:
It is afternoon in Seville and it is hot. The players have now left the club’s training ground, which is a 15-minute drive from their Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. The first thing they did when they arrived, just like every morning, was to have a blood test; the last thing they did before leaving was to eat together. Emery is still here, wading through the videos of Dnipro. He does the editing himself, cutting and pasting and analysing
“I always say: when I was 16, 18, I would go to school and I would have an hour of Latin, maths, history, philosophy, English, an hour of I don’t-know-what ... six hours. Here you come in and you have an hour of football ... an hour! Football! An hour of football, and you like football. So a video [is not too much to ask].” Emery smiles. While he admits that players can feel “watched”, that the methods are “invasive”, he has won them over.
“For every game I might have spent 12 hours just on the video,” he says. “Videos are very important. We work hard so that they have the best information and it has to be a good video: in an hour the players have to understand everything you’ve seen in 12.”
One can see that Emery has a highly obsessive and thorough approach, and this is clearly something that needs to be seen.
- Off the ball work
Emery mentioned in his press conference that he likes attacking and off the ball strengths. The latter is key, considering Arsenal's poor away form, and how the team often got caught out in the midfield.
The goals for tally was one of the best in the league in 17/18. Yet the goals against total was the worst of the top six teams. This shows that defensively, Arsenal need stronger organisation, and this is something that Emery can bring to the team.
With heightened meticulousness, he will also look to strengthen the attitudes of players. In his interview, he supposedly produced a dossier on every squad player and offered points on how they can improve as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
This attention to detail will mean that all players need to be kept up, and will require a new attitude in preparation, fitness, and tactical formats.
A former Gunner, Jose Antonio Reyes, was improved by Emery when he returned to Spain. It's an ironic and telling link of what could happen with current players.
- Close quarters coaching
Emery will bring strong coaching and development, via working with players individually and collectively.
This will be manna from heaven to some players, who clearly need greater direction and guidance. And Arsenal have numerous players who one can see require urgent attention.
Iwobi, Bellerin, Mustafi, and Xhaka, are all players who have done some good things this season but have shown they need additional aid to get to their heights.
Emery can provide this. This isn’t to knock the great man, but even in the winning years, he did not provide great coaching to the team. It’s something that the legendary Tony Adams touched upon, as have other legends such as Wright, Dixon, etc.
By providing these points, Emery is fixing the issues that have needed tinkering for years.
- New life
It’s been said that Lucas Perez has been asked to return to the club, and this could be an interesting development.
He had been shut out previously, and he did offer something prior to his extended loan. It’s possible that his inclusion signifies a new change of direction and his inclusion into the new Emery framework.
The fact that he can seemingly resurrect careers adds to the narrative of change the club is witnessing.
- Other clubs' fans are anxious
Whilst not representative how of all fans think, it is amusing and gratifying to see other clubs' fans cite anxiousness over Emery.
It is true, vis a vis the other top six, that Arsenal has fallen behind, and have become more of a soft touch. This could, possibly, be coming to an end and the issues that the club has been stereotyped for may cease, it may not be as soft a touch.
Are there negatives?
There are some perceived negatives, such as his loss to Barca, and his time at PSG overall. However, it’s foolish to assign isolated results as definitive of an entire tenure. Wenger’s time at Arsenal cannot be defined via the 4-2 win vs. Liverpool in 2004, or the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford. It’s naturally far more complex than this. So the great man has gone, and Emery has arrived. The king is dead, long live the king.
There is no guarantee that Emery will succeed.
But he is a capable solution to the issues at hand. So let’s ride the wave, and see how well Arsenal can improve.