8 months into the new era – #WelcomeUnai – Assessment so far

After over 20 years in charge of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger left the club is the most dignified manor.  The class of the man showed when he made his final speech goodbye to the club on on the pitch.  This was after months of abuse and constant barracking from so called ‘fans’ of the club.  After huge speculation in the press and social media the board appointed Ex–Paris Saint Germain (PSG) Unai Emery as Arsenal Head Coach on 23rd May 2018.  Eight months into the job we look into how he is faring.

Player Signings

Bernd Leno – Solid enough goalkeeper.  Waited for his chance in the early part of the season to become first choice from Cech.  A few questionable errors leading to goals but isn’t helped by a leaky defence.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos –  Combative defender, likes to get stuck in. However I feel we already have a hot headed defender in Mustafi so not ideal to have two.  That said making up for lack in pace can read certain parts of the game well and very rarely is left wanting in games, Injury in the Man Utd FA Cup game robbed us of a solid defender for a month.

Stephan Lichtsteiner – I expected a bit more for a player of his experience.  Defensive frailties showing and his inability to track runners saw him at fault for one of Man Citys goals at the Etihad. Better options in the squad

Lucas Torreira – Solid, busy player in the middle of the park, tenacious in the tackle and looks to play forward when opportunity arises.  One of the most consistent players in the squad.

Matteo Guendouzi – Coming in from Ligue 2 to a club like Arsenal must be a dream. Then being one of the most played players for Arsenal this year shows how far this prodigy has come.  Certainly not a finished article but at his age who is.  Great start and looking for improvements into the new season.

Denis Suarez – When needing reinforcements into the squad I think of the two serious knee injuries we have suffered and the fact that we are seriously struggling defensively.  Therefore very suprised to see another attacking player coming in when defensive cover was needed.  Not seen enough of him at this moment, but not had too much to cheer about in these last few games.

Player Sales

Chuba Akpom – Sold to PAOK – 23 year old scored 5 goals for them this year.  Very hard for a youngster to get game time as a striker.  Isn’t at the level we need to push on or trouble Laca or Pierre.

Lucas Perez – Sold to West Ham, I quite liked him when he played.  I liked his energy and he did have an eye for the goal, but game time needed and we couldn’t give him it.

Takuma Asano – On loan to Hannover,  not setting the world on fire in the Bundesliga so have reservations if he will have a place at Arsenal, but at only 23 there is a chance.

Aaron Ramsey – Signed a pre contract deal with Juventus FC, one of my favourite players in this modern day team and am disappointed we offered him a contract which he was willing to sign then pulled it.  Subsequently we receive no money for him, really poor business again from the club.

Danny Welbeck – Will not get a contract renewal in the summer,  had a very bad ankle injury earlier in the season so sad that we won’t see him playing in the shirt again.  An english stiker with a great international scoring record needs regular gametime in a top 10 club to improve his club scoring record.

League Position

With twelve games left of a difficult season we are sitting in 5th place above Chelsea.  We are certain to finish in top six with a eleven point gap to impressive Wolves. Manchester Utd’ renaissance under Ole has heaped pressure on us to get into the top four as they clawed a large gap back to sit above us by one point.

Our next four games are crucial with Tottenham and Man Utd coming after Southampton and Bournemouth. It is going to take a big run to get us into the Champions League places, I am hopeful we can do it, but I do not see us with the injuries we have being consistent enough to do so.

Playing Style

I don’t believe Unai has worked out what style is best suited to the team, in this aspect I feel we have regressed from previous years. The way we played was exciting but with the long standing issues of having a poor defensive unit, individual mistakes and generally soft backbone. This was the first priority in the new era. If we had tightened up the defence, I am still not sure what is being worked on in training and still see these same mistakes happening. Early stages of Emery’s Arsenal career so not too harsh.

Improvements

The main improvement I have seen is the willingness to press for the ball. We knew that this group of players could do that.  When you look at certain games where we swarmed over certain teams, notably Man Utd at The Emirates where we were 3-0 up in the first half. Adding a good battler into the middle has seen improved ball turnover.

Negatives

It is very early in Unai Emery’s tenure but feel there are a lot of strange decisions made by him. I cannot understand why he is freezing out Ozil, it is baffling and confuses me where we are crying out for creativity but Emery has left him out of the squad. You have to find a place for someone who is costing the club so much per week. Create a system that can enable us to use the quality of Ozil whilst creating stability behind him.

The next one is Ramsey leaving to join Juventus on a free transfer.  We go into next season facing a dire situation in that we lose both Ozil and Ramsay. By all accounts we do not have a lot to spend on transfers.

All in all, I do not feel the club needed a revolution.  We have a good squad of players, that squad was unbalanced, however an addition of a solid decent defender was needed. If he is taking the title of head coach then we must see improvements to this defensive unit baring in mind Arsene was ridiculed for not working on defence yet same mistakes and naivety are happening regularly.

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