New Season, New Hope: how Arsenal’s signings reveal Emery’s intent

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Welcome, new season!

While the Club is busy launching the new home kit, which will finally see us leave Puma and embrace Adidas, I am reflecting about the upcoming season and the expectations that go with it.

The recently leaked (was it, though?) commercial about the new home kit has gone viral for various reasons, the main one being its ability to reignite some pride and sense of belonging among fans, still at the lowest point since the terrible end of last season.

The commercial, absolutely brilliant, also signalled the start of something new, which prompted me to think: are we ready to swipe the slate clean for Unai Emery?

Last season was initially meant to be a transitional year, a first rebuilding step towards a more tactically modern setup, but ended with calls for the head coach to be sacked and a heavy sky above our heads.
I went through some of the articles I published on my Italian blog before the start of last season and found this: “Should we somehow get into the Champions League and have a good run in the Europa League, I would consider this a successful first season”.
How many of you had the same level of expectations, one year back from today? I guess I wasn’t alone in my assessment of what it would make it a positive or successful debut season.

At the end of the day, we stayed in the race for a top-four finish – even top-three, at some point – until the end of the domestic campaign and went all the way in the Europa League, losing the final in Baku; it’s hardly a season to remember but surely not one that would end in the head coach getting the boot.

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Baku was a flop

The way results panned out really made the difference in the way we perceived the season as a whole, because the very Spursy end-of-the-year collapse made it look much worse that it actually was.

If we rewind the 2018/19 season tape, we’d notice that we had a three-faced campaign with some very good stuff from September to November, some mixed stuff through winter and the very bad stuff in spring; if we mix up these three periods and, say, start well, had a terrible winter and finish with some progress – although not sufficient to get Champions League football – the whole perspective would change; again, if we start with the ugly and improve as the season unfolds, the way last season is perceived would be very different.

Of many ways to fall short, we chose the worst one and Unai Emery seems to pay an unfair price for that.

Upon his appointment last year, Unai Emery often spoke of his desire to have an aggressive team that chase the ball and the opponents relentlessly, as well as putting more focus on the defensive setup to build a stronger, more drilled block; although we are still waiting for some serious improvements on this side, I do believe that next season will be different and we will start seeing a better organised team because the coach had a first season to assess his players and highlight the squad needs.

Unai Emery’s most unforgivable sin probably was adapting to the players he had at his disposal and try to figure out ways to make them click, instead of imposing his tactical ideas and beliefs; the Spaniard took a huge gamble with the mid-season change of attitude, with players no longer playing out from the back, Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey redemption, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette playing together upfront, in an attempt to sneak into top-4 and/or win the Europa League thanks to the sole talent at his disposal, leaving the “project” aside but it didn’t work and exposed him to the most ferocious critics.

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New Left Back

A reason why I’m cautiously optimistic is that, according to reports, we are closing in on a left full-back and actively chasing wingers and wide forwards, as well as working on new centre-halves, which suggests to me that we might see Unai Emery reverting to his favorite 4-2-3-1 formation for the next season.
No more square pegs in round holes, no more endless patience with underperforming players but the ruthlessness we were promised and shown – although only in glances – at the beginning of last year; it looks to me that Unai Emery learned a very valuable lesson from last season and is determined to bite back, after disowning some of his principles in the quest for an immediate result.

Next season will be make or break for the Spaniard, whose contract expires in June 2020, and he seems determined to go his way, all the way.

So, I am asking you again: are you ready to swipe the slate clean for Unai Emery?

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2 Responses to New Season, New Hope: how Arsenal’s signings reveal Emery’s intent

  1. Omar El-kilany July 1, 2019 at 2:02 pm #

    A good article Andrea, am glad you could see and also understood the problems Emery had and would have had in his first season.
    Trouble with some of our fans after saying they would give him at least 2 seasons they suddenly wanted instant success/results, knowing that he came into a new regime, new board, structure change, a clear out of staff, new language, new country and a lot of average players to deal with and some who were overpaid players, some leaving with no transfer sell on fees,

  2. Victor Thompson July 1, 2019 at 2:54 pm #

    Andrea, I am grateful to you and a few others of the Team who manage to scrape up articles to keep us all interested.

    I agree with a lot of your excellent article, however if you read the first two lines of your third last article you describe the team that Unai was trying to produce and it is almost a verbatim description of Liverpool. Relentless pressing all over and a stronger. more drilled defence. That is what Klupp has achieved and he completed the puzzle when he bought Van Dijk ( the best CB in the world ), but it was because Klupp had a deep money trough to spend. Of course, Klupp bought wisely and there are very few duds among his purchases.

    Emery unfortunately is scraping the bottom of his purse to try to buy £80m -to -£100m players for £20m – £30m. I understand that we are trying to haggle with Celtic for their left back Tierney for £20m when Celtic value him at £30m. Zahah wants to come to Arsenal, but at £80m he appears to be way out of our range!

    I had disciplined myself to allow Emery two years grace before I expected to see results and especially entry into the top 4. I have stuck to that although he went through a period of bringing subs on and taking players especially Lacazette and Auba off. He also didn`t understand that it is a waste to play Elneny and Guendozzi in the same team and he lost games because of both mistakes. Some obvious faults are worth highlighting, but I would not cry for Unai`s head as a result. I do believe that we should have been 4th and possibly 3rd if the above mistakes had not been made. In mitigation, no one could blame anyone else but the players on the abject surrender to Chelsea in Baku which on its own, cost us a place in the EU. Championship.

    All things considered, we have to cut our cloth from different material now. The bespoke tailor is not where we shop. We have to rely on store bought, up and coming talent so it is unrealistic to think that we can match City and Liverpool. Man Utd. are apparently going to unleash a huge war chest and Pochettino has made it clear that he expects Spurs to match his ambition. That leaves Chelsea who are going to have a hard season without Hazard and restrictions on signing players. Logically, Chelsea are the only ones that we can expect to beat. If Emery is to find diamonds amongst his Academy players, he is going to have a much tougher season this year than he had last year.

    I wish him the very best of luck and I hope he finds his excaliber to overcome his competition with. I think that reasonable fans will have to give any manager some breathing space because with Kroenke in charge, there are not going to ba any quick fixes.

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