Ten games into the Unai Emery era at the Emirates Stadium, including eight consecutive wins, and early assumptions are beginning to be drawn up on how the Spaniard has made his mark at Arsenal.
Emery came to the club on the back of league success with Paris Saint Germain and a reputation for being an obsessive when it comes to defence, but having had three months with his new batch of players, where is the impact from that obsession?
The Basque-born tactician was said to give players USB sticks with hours of videos on them to go home and watch over in order to improve how they played when the opponent had the ball.
Neymar was claimed to have groaned to the Qatari owners of PSG that the videos were too time consuming, while the former Spain international Joaquin once said “Emery put on so many videos I ran out of popcorn.”
This philosophy was supposed to shake things up on his arrival at Arsenal and strike fear into players like Shkodran Mustafi, who under Arsène Wenger displayed defensive fragility on multiple occasions and is known for his love of diving in for the ball when staying on his feet may be better for his backline partners.
Early games under Emery are yet to show any different, with Mustafi still making mistakes at the back as a regular starter in the Spaniard’s teams alongside summer signing Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who joined from Borussia Dortmund.
Sokratis’ arrival has certainly helped to sort Arsenal’s defensive blunders in some respects, though the Greek centre-back’s greatest importance in the backline has been due to injuries keeping Laurent Koscielny out of action.
Had Wenger not departed and began what would have been his 23rd campaign at the helm with another raid of Westfalenstadion, having acquired Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Dortmund in January, Sokratis’ impact for the Gunners would likely have been the same.
The 30-year-old came with bags of experience having spent five years at Dortmund and represented his country since 2008, so it is safe to say the defender already knew how to play the game. It is not as if Emery scouted Europe for the next wonderkid that he could nurture into the next big thing, an aspect Wenger was praised on as he continually gave chances to young players.
What’s more, Emery has almost forced a new style of play on his defenders and goalkeepers by placing an even higher desire to join the trend of playing it out from the back. This has only created problems for the experienced legs of Petr Cech, who has struggled to adapt and nearly cost his side points by taking too long on the ball or almost putting it in his own net.
The standout gaffe came on the opening day of the Premier League season against Manchester City when Cech tried to play a first time pass across the face of his own goal, only to see the ball skip narrowly wide of the post.
Even though Arsenal went on to lose that encounter anyway, you do not expect errors like this from a goalkeeper with as much career game time as Cech has.
It is harsh to say that the defeat to City was purely down to Emery’s desire to change the style of play at the Emirates Stadium. Results like that were almost expected at one point towards the end of Wenger’s time and the matchups against the reigning title holders and Chelsea the following week came too soon into the new regime for any difference to really be made.
From there, though, you would expect improvements to start to nose out and Arsenal begin to build into a new team, but that has not happened yet.
Sure, games like the win at home to Watford showed a new belief in the players that they could grind out results when under Wenger a loss may have occurred. But the players have still only beaten teams you would expect them to beat, and lost in the same way against sides you’d expect them to lose to. Upcoming games at home to Liverpool and away to Crystal Palace will show more into how Emery has changed the mentality at the club.
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