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The feel good factor is back at Arsenal, it’s time to perform

Unai Emery

There’s a feeling swirling around the Emirates, that Arsenal’s house is finally being put in order and my source mentions the feel-good factor is back. Midway through last season, a degree of apathy had engulfed the club, caused in no small part, by growing uncertainty.

A number of players at the club were at the tail end of their contracts and Arsenal seemed fairly complacent in negotiations. The mood of the squad was poor, mainly because whatever system was employed by Arsene Wenger, the results were, unfortunately, the same. There was no sense of urgency from the players, nothing to play for and nothing to prove.

If you played for Arsenal, it was almost a given that you would get a starting spot every week. You didn’t need to sparkle, you didn’t need to deliver, you just had to show up. That sounds incredibly harsh but I’m told Wenger’s avuncular approach had begun to frustrate a number of players, particularly with Sanchez and Ozil, who seemed to be given extra advantages in everything during their contract negotiations.

Behind closed doors and without the management present, the Arsenal side were disillusioned and uninspired. Some were questioning selections, others tactics and if Wenger had stayed, it’s possible that a sixth place position would have been viewed as good. The decline that had been slow over a period of four or more seasons was surely about to accelerate, with Wenger being squeezed from all sides.

It all sounds a bit mutiny on the bounty but it was in danger of becoming such. There is no greater blight on a team than abject failure and you can forget a few FA cups, the Premier League is and will always be the measure of a team’s success. Ask any paying fan if they would rather win the premiership for the next five years or win one Champions League trophy and they will plump for the first option. If you can’t compete in your own backyard, how the hell are you expected to do it in Europe?

Arsenal were falling so far behind the opposition it was almost criminal. We can cite the new stadium as the main reason for the clubs inability to compete in the transfer market but measures should have taken to secure key players, befitting their talent. It may not have stopped the exodus but it may have helped. I don’t accept that they had to sell and the board, who I blame for most things, should have found additional revenue to build on the Invincible’s and look to the future.

I feel like the majority of fans, incredibly angry that this situation was allowed to develop and continue for so long. Yet they were ably assisted by Arsene Wenger in this tragedy, an obliging partner who could have stamped his feet and thrown his dummy out of the pram but he rarely objected to any proposal unless it threatened his control. Emery’s arrival has injected new life into a stagnating club, he has already given the players a fresh approach and outlook and finally, hope is a word that doesn’t look misplaced.

Already players are looking ahead to next season, with the overdue realisation that a decent performance may not be good enough to get them in the side for the next eight weeks. That if they are seen living the high life before a match until the wee hours, they might be nursing their hangovers in the bench instead of the pitch. The new faces coming in are all of competitive nature and are not recipients of Uncle Arsene’s friendly arm around the shoulder.

It’s been mentioned by many, that Wenger needed to stamp his authority on certain players but failed to do so. Emery is so far an unknown commodity and the players will need to prove themselves to claim their place. They will need to fight off the competition for their starting spot and most of all, they will need to deliver. The work ethic required will be huge but Emery intends to build a team, not a collection of talented individuals who occasionally combine to conquer.

Wenger had that at the peak of his powers in the 90’s and George Graham, now almost forgotten by many, was a team man. Perhaps Emery is a combination of both, a man who wants a team performance but someone who is not adverse to individual creativity and flair. I’m hoping he is exactly that and in that respect, we will see the brave new world that Ivan Gazidis talks about.

Let’s be clear, Emery was never the first choice but even so, he is an immensely gifted and ambitious coach at a huge club with massive potential. Mislintat, heavily criticised recently for his frequent raids on Dortmund, will single-mindedly pursue his recommendations and facilitate Emery’s preferences. Both are likely to make a superb partnership because their vision of Arsenal football club is exactly the same. Three, perhaps four additions are likely within the next 11 days, such is the speed at which the rebuilding process is heading.

Sampdoria’s Lucas Torreira is said to be of immense interest but the competition for the player is fierce. Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Caglar Soyuncu, Bassem Srarfi, Yacine Adli and Steven Nzonzi are names that seem to be constantly linked to the new era but their services are also being sought by a number of high profile clubs.
There’s much to do but it appears the foundations for the revolution are in place and we may yet see the best of some existing players that haven’t performed for some time.

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