When any club has sustained such a prolonged time under the reign of one individual, it is not surprising that a change can be welcomed. The new voice, the new ideas and even a new direction can be an injection of excitement for players who have perhaps, become bored, or in some cases, to complacent in recent times. The fact that new Arsenal coach, Unai Emery, is so different to Arsene Wenger, could have a twofold effect. For one, it could be a sharp warning to those who have been strolling and for others it could offer a new sense of direction and purpose.
Engaging, intense, insightful, almost obsessed, Emery brings to Arsenal a different, style, a different ideology and some may hope, a different way to win. The philosophic Arsene who put ultimate trust in his players has been replaced by a man who has his own direction. To put it simply, Emery’s train is going in one direction, you either get on in, or get off. Emery is happy to work within Arsenal’s structure, he did a similar job at Sevilla working with Monchi. Now working with the likes of Sven Mislintat, he will quickly form his team and coach them in his intense manner.
Former employee at Sevilla, Joaquin, said that his former boss was obsessed with the game and his intense video session, tactical drills, homework and personal player direction made him the best coach he had ever worked with. Joaquin said of him that he had the best three years of his career under him but he couldn’t handle a fourth. It is this planning and tactical insight that Wenger was accused of not having and there are certain players who will now potentially excel under this new regime.
Aaron Ramsey must be high on Emery’s list of priorities as it seems that, according to reports the Spanish coach is willing to divert transfer funds in order to keep the Welsh midfielder at the club. Ramsey has spoken of his excitement about the Arsenal project and why wouldn’t he when his new boss is making it clear that he will be one of the pillars of his new team. The 27-year-old, when at his best, can be breathtaking and at times goes through stages when he looks like the complete ‘number eight’ often adding goals to his game. The issue is that he hasn’t been consistent and has looked lost and without direction especially in big games. Now with a coach who will give him a detailed game plan and the trust, we may yet see a vast improvement in his game.
Hector Bellerin has also been a player who, despite his large amount of game time has seemed to regress. Confidence perhaps is an issue as it seems like he is nervous to maraud forward for fear of being exposed by the cover he will get. The hope that Emery will have the defence start working as a cohesive unit will give more structure to his game and the advice (and perhaps competition) from 34-year-old, serial title winner, Stephan Lichsteiner, will also help him regain confidence. Sometimes trust in players (as Wenger certainly did) works wonders but Bellerin’s lack of experience may see him perform better under the guidance of a coach (that is as along as he does his homework before going out to do his modelling).
Granit Xhaka, the enigma, the man who divides opinion, the asset, the liability. The Swiss midfielder certainly has the technical ability to be a phenomenal player although he started the season in terrible form. He did improve throughout and looked like one of Arsenal’s better performers later in the campaign but was often deployed as a holding midfielder. Emery, as he proved at Sevilla and at PSG, loves to have an anchor man and will recognise that Xhaka’s skill set lies elsewhere. A more defined role and better cover will allow him to push further forward and play more as a metronome than a man who is covering the defence. At 25-years of age the Swiss midfielder is coming up to a key period in his career and the coach will certainly be looking at him as a man who is better with the ball than without.
Detail, analysis, coaching, repeating and pressing, this is Emery’s game and as he starts to convince his players to buy into his philosophy then the results will come. The benefit to players who want to learn from him will be evident and the first to take the guidance on board may convince others as they see the results. Arsenal are entering a new era and with it some players may be reborn.