The appointment of Unai Emery wasn’t the bold and brave new World promised by CEO Ivan Gazidis but it was certainly the best option left. Emery wasn’t the first choice, nor was he the second and he probably wasn’t even the third but by appointing the Spaniard as the Arsenal coach, they have someone ideal to sort out their current problems and lead the chase for a top four position.
That sounds like a lack of ambition but it’s realistic. Emery isn’t going to be able to fashion a team to thrash Barcelona or batter Manchester City in his first season in charge, but he can remould and remodel for the season after that.
One by one the top candidates in the managerial race withdrew or became unavailable, so they finally decided on Emery who at least has the necessary pedigree, experience and proven track record. Emery was presented by the peacock-like Gazidis as a new manager, claiming it had been an entirely successful process and whilst also stressing that no one had dropped out, mmmm.
If Gazidis shook me by the hand, I’d check if my watch was still on my wrist and would additionally count my fingers. The CEO also announced that the role was one of the most attractive jobs in football but to those following Arsenal, the word attractive could be easily replaced by the word challenge.
To understate the enormity of the task ahead would be negligent because the new manager has to immediately wield the sword and find the heart of a squad that appeared completely dysfunctional for the majority of the season. Inconsistency and lack of appetite were the main culprits in a topsy-turvy campaign that highlighted the team’s considerable flaws but Wenger left behind the nucleus of an attacking and creative midfield and a potent attack.
The fact that Emery has no association with Arsenal may help his cause, he has no established loyalty and players can be judged on merit, not as former colleagues or superstars. Emery will have to inject fresh energy into a side that has coasted and lacked ambition on occasion. It has personnel that have underachieved, lacked tenacity and intensity and he will need to foster a new drive and desire.
It’s already been rumoured that the incoming manager has noted a host of promising youngsters from the academy and his side may be a mixture of youth and experience. The budget is widely reported to be as low as £50 million but the new boss could easily double, if not treble that by selling existing players who simply aren’t good enough.
Hector Bellerin, who has been fabulously inconsistent in defence this season could bring in £40 to £50 million alone but there are others that he may consider offloading as he begins to rebuild. Wenger’s parting words were that the squad was three signings short of mounting a serious challenge for the premiership next season but Emery and Mislintat, who met just a few days ago and remain constantly in touch, realise the scale of the task involved.
Not only is the defence broken beyond repair in its current form but the midfield needs a stable axis going forward and Mesut Ozil in particular, may need to be less inclined to go absent with the sniffles. One man who could benefit from the change is Wenger’s expensive outcast Lucas Perez. The opportunity is now there to claim his position in the side and prove that the former manager’s decision to loan him out was a mistake.
Perez was one of a number of errors made by the Frenchman in his last few seasons in charge. These included the exclusion of Kolasinac, Debuchy and the bewildering decision to stay loyal to Koscielny, who was clearly hampered by injury for the majority of the season. Emery and Mislintat especially will be pivotal in introducing a much needed sturdy spine and steely defence, which as a result, may require a tweak in style.
Emery will want to see that aforementioned desire and total commitment on and off the ball, something he commands from his team along with work rate, which may be unpalatable to a number of the more creative squad members. Don’t think for one minute that the new manager will be afraid to ring the changes either, it’s said that he intends to hit the ground running and because of the pressure to deliver, he will make the necessary decisions to ensure he achieves his goals.
Emery and Gazidis said all the right things at the press conference, making a compelling case for that Arsenal should become a competitive force that can be a threat in the premier league and in Europe but the reality of making that happen without losing its trademark style is going to be extremely difficult. Wenger was sadly past his sell by date and change was needed but we will have to wait and see if it is the type of change supporters wanted.
Manchester United fans have certainly suffered transitional pains under Mourinho who has a team that sometimes explodes into life and on other occasions runs through its gears to paralyze the opposition. They can be painfully difficult to watch and the fact that they are still some distance away from matching their dazzling neighbours Irks the United faithful.
I doubt Emery will sterilise the squad to that extent but he will make it more robust and defensively minded.
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