Why Unai Emery needs time at Arsenal
It has been a tough start to the season for Arsenal. After replacing Arsene Wenger with Unai Emery over the summer, they began their Premier League campaign with difficult games against Manchester City and Chelsea, both of which they lost.
Emery was always going to have a huge task on his hand restoring Arsenal to their former glories, and the enormity of that task may just be dawning on him. He saw his side outclassed in their opening day defeat to Manchester City before their defensive frailties came to the fore in their 3-2 loss against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The 46-year-old has made a number of changes at Arsenal, both to the staff off the pitch, and the players on it. He bought a number of the coaching staff with him, including assistant head coach Juan Carlos Carcedo and first-team coach Pablo Vallanueva. This transition also saw numerous staff members leave the Emirates, most notably former goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.
In terms of on the pitch, there have also been a few changes. Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla have both left the club, while Per Mertesacker has retired. As for incomings, Bernd Leno and Lucas Torreira have been the big money buys, while he has also bought in experience in the form of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
It isn’t just the players that Emery has changed, but it is also the style of football. He has clearly told his side they should be looking to play out from the back, and need to try and press from the front when the opposition is in possession.
It is clear to see from the opening two matches that this is something new for the players. Against Manchester City, they constantly caused themselves problems trying to play the ball out from the back, and although we have seen pressing high up the pitch, it hasn’t exactly been effective.
It has been a disappointing start for Arsenal, and despite the criticism of Emery in the media, he shouldn’t rest on his laurels. This tough start was inevitable, especially in replacing Arsene Wenger, a man who had built the club in his image over the years. We saw at Manchester United, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal really struggled to stamp their authority on the club, and even now, it is debatable as to the success Jose Mourinho has had.
Obviously, there is work for Emery to do, but he deserves the time to do it. Regardless of some of the comments on social media, it is not the same as under Arsene Wenger. They are looking to play a different way, and given how compact they tried to be against Chelsea, there are clearly ideas that Emery is implementing.
A clear example of this was their second goal at Stamford Bridge, where they played the ball from back to front with almost every player having a touch on the way to the ball ending up in the back of the net.
It is worth remembering that this is not his team, and it will be a long time before it really is. He didn’t really get the backing he would have wanted from the board this summer, so was unable to sign the quality, or quantity, of players that he would have wanted. Therefore he is left with a group of players, who aren’t used to playing his way, and in the case of many, aren’t able to.
At the back, he doesn’t have many players who are naturally comfortable on the ball and keen to pass out from the back. Meanwhile, up top, the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil aren’t exactly the types of player who are happy to press high and work hard when out of possession.
It will take at least 4 or 5 transfer windows for him to put together a team that play how he wants them to. He needs backing from the Arsenal board to do so, because he is an excellent manager, and with time, could turn Arsenal into title contenders again.