When Unai Emery was announced as Arsène Wenger’s successor, many raised eyebrows at an appointment which had left some of the fanbase uninspired, and after two years with Paris Saint-Germain the former Sevilla boss will bring exciting, new ideas to Emirates Stadium.
I think 90% of Arsenal fans were preparing for the news that Mikel Arteta would be the man to replace Arsène Wenger, but when David Ornstein broke the news that Unai Emery would be the new boss, it pretty much came from nowhere, either there was a rejection from Arteta or Arsenal pulled the plug but it’s becoming more clear that Arsenal got cold feet on Mikel and opted for a more experienced head in the former PSG boss. Somehow Arsenal kept in under wraps that Ivan Gazidis, Raul Sanllehi and Unai flew to Atlanta to meet the Kroenke family and were persuaded that he was the man to fit into this new structure at Arsenal, providing an stunning interview which included an in-depth review of each player in the Arsenal squad. So let’s buckle in and enjoy the ride.
Unai Emery is a man who has divided opinion with his appointment in N5, and certainly divided opinion during his two years in Paris. The 3-time Europa League winner failed to win the Champions League in the French Capital, which is deemed as failure, so does that mean Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino are also failures? Emery won 5 major titles out of 6 during his 2 years in France and masterminded the best PSG performance in recent times, a scintillating 4-0 victory against pre-tournament favourites Barcelona, and despite being humiliated 6-1 in the second leg, if you are blaming him for the 6-1 defeat, he must deserve huge praise for the first leg. Lastly, I was majorly impressed with how Unai spoke fluent English in his first press conference, refusing to pass questions onto Gazidis or the translator, he showed terrific character, nerve and looks like he really wants to succeed here, and I for one can’t wait. So that’s Unai in a nutshell.
Tactically, he’s a very astute manager who certainly believes in one philosophy on the pitch, high pressing and possession-based attacking football. When Ivan Gazidis said that his aim was to appoint a manager to continue the club’s traditions and values and he’s certainly lived up to his promise. Appointing Emery indicates Arsenal want to stay with their playing on the front foot philosophy and taking the game to the opposition. Having watched Emery’s teams at PSG and Sevilla, he likes to set up in an orthodox 4-3-3 formation which could become a 4-1-2-2-1 with a defensive midfielder dropping deep to effectively form a back three whilst the full-backs push up the pitch to provide width in the attack. If his team lost the ball, the wide players would form a front 2 and press the centre-backs, forcing the ball wide, then using the touchline as another man to press with, as the central midfielders and a full-back squeeze to narrow the play-out space.
A weakness in Emery’s tactical system is when the ball is lost and the opposition are in transition and their offensive players outnumber the defensive players, could this be Emery’s achilles heel next season? It’s hard to predict exactly how the Spaniard will get on next season with most having spent all of lives so used to the ways of Arsène Wenger, but the tactical change in the way we’ll play and some fresh impetus at the club is so exciting, even the small things like shithousery towards other managers, getting in the faces of officials and going berserk in the last minute, I’m so looking forward to it.
With rumours that Emery wants to build his team around Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, it’s encouraging that even at this stage he knows exactly who he wants to keep and who he doesn’t, and with Ramsey being offered a new deal it certainly backs up claims that these two will be pivotal for the Gunners next season. There will be plenty more ins and outs over the course of the summer, and with the transfer window shutting days before the season opener, it’s likely that work is underway to bring in reinforcements. With a high number of key players, such as the aforementioned players, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Henrikh Mkhitaryan just to name a few set to get a full summer of preparation with Arsenal, I think this could be a big opportunity to get off to a good start in the season and not be a number of points away from the table toppers at an early stage.
On a final note, I will be firmly behind Unai and the new look Arsenal, it’s such an exciting era for the club and hopefully we start to take off as a club from here and really challenge in Europe and domestically and I can’t wait for the new season to roll around, I also think Ivan Gazidis deserves huge credit for the work he’s done to make change happen, the future is finally bright again in N5.
Occasional writer who follows the Arsenal home and away. Dennis is our greatest ever.