New boss couldn’t have asked for harder start

It was never going to be an easy task for Unai Emery when he took over the reigns from long-serving Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger over the summer, but the Spaniard could not believe his poor fortunes when tasked with his two opening games against Manchester City and Chelsea.

Although every club has to play every competitor twice, Emery’s birth into English football could not have been more challenging in who they had to ease into the season. Two losses in those two matches – although the game against Chelsea in West London was a lot closer than their first – have already caused criticism from fans and supporters, suggesting they want him to change his philosophy already.

Of course, such backlash is going to be expected given this day and age, but what Emery must do in his first season in charge, is to block out the external factors. It’s hard enough taking over from a manager who has held down the post for 22 years without certain fans getting on your back after 180 minutes, and so Emery needs to hold strong this year and keep his values and brand of football at the forefront of his work.


Emery must stick to his guns

It’s clear that Emery has envisioned his Arsenal side to play out from the back in a free-flowing, fluid system that gets the best out of his prolific strike force. As seen in the game against Pep Guardiola’s team, this new style of football will take some getting used to as goalkeeper Petr Čech nearly passed the ball into his own net to the chorus of sarcastic applauses by the onlooking spectators.

Possibly the biggest mistake the former Paris Saint-Germain manager can make is to revert back on his philosophy. It will not work overnight and breed instant success, but should he change what he first set out to do at the North London club, the players will lose respect for him and know full well that his days will be numbered if he becomes a pragmatist.

Throughout Emery’s first pre-season in charge of the Gunners, he deployed a 4-3-3 system which had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang operating from the left, Alexandre Lacazette through the middle and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right. For the large part, especially in their 6-1 victory over the manager’s former club, it had worked. The fluidity between the front three was key to Emery’s success and the players seemed to have adapted to it incredibly quickly.

However, Emery has decided to go against that instinct in his opening two games and try to play a more cautious approach when up against Man City and Chelsea by deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation. No one could blame him for that, even if there was no payoff for him. But now, with fixtures against West Ham, Cardiff and Newcastle, Emery should switch back to his pre-season plans and start to build some momentum.

Even against Chelsea, there were a vast amount of opportunities being created. Arsenal had 15 shots throughout the match and had, on occasion, managed to carve the Blues apart with some incisive passing moves. Emery will find it easier to put those chances into the back of the net in his next three games.


Progress more important than trophies

With such a big shift in Arsenal’s history happening this season, the end result for May next year is to have a functioning squad that are playing Emery’s way. While a trophy, of course, would ease the fans’ minds over their new manager, even if it is the League Cup, the most important aspect to come from this season will be to ensure that for the following campaign, Arsenal are reading to challenge for major honours.

What is also mightily important to ease Emery into proceedings at Arsenal is to make him feel comfortable playing at the Emirates. Arsenal fans have, in the past, been very vocal about their feelings towards their new signings who have not hit the ground running, but patience is a virtue that must be respected in the next 12 months. Success is not going to happen overnight and Arsenal fans need to be aware that there will be slip ups on the way.

It might be a long road ahead for Arsenal and Emery in where they wish to be, but support can go a long way and Wenger’s successor could certainly do with some when tackling this uphill battle.

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