Since the announcement of his appointment as head coach of Arsenal, there have been countless articles and podcasts and all kinds of things telling us about Unai Emery, what kind of a manager he is and what kind of a man he is.
I particularly enjoyed this bit in the Guardian from former Sevilla player Marco Andreolli. He appears to be a journeyman centre-half who spent a season on loan with the Spanish side, then managed by the new Arsenal boss. It wasn’t a particularly successful campaign for him personally but he experienced Emery’s methods up close and personal, and while praising him for his motivational skills, one particular bit jumped out at me:
Unai and his staff are on top of every little detail. They don’t leave anything to chance, they absolutely live for football. From a tactical perspective, he is perhaps better suited to Italian football than the Spanish game. On the training pitch he works hard on defensive phases and how to counter particular opponents.
For those of us who have long worried about our defensive frailties and inability to address the issues there in any meaningful way, this is music to my ears. David Bowie music. He sounds like a man who will well and truly take these players out of their comfort zone. Arsene Wenger was almost always a manager who wanted his team to impose their style on the opposition, rather than one who set out to negate the strengths of others.
In his last few years we saw him more willing to be practical, and there were times when we set-up specifically to ensure we weren’t turned over, but it wasn’t his natural way. It would also be completely wrong to say he didn’t do tactics or instruct his players, but it’s no coincidence that we were at our best when his ‘You go out there and do what feel’ approach was carried out by top class players and intelligent men.
It doesn’t work the same way when the players you have aren’t quite as good and perhaps not as smart. I’ve often felt that some of the problems of recent times are down to a lack of specific instructions. Modern players crave that, being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and while that wasn’t really Wenger, it seems to be Emery. So, at a time when we’re all focused on how the transfer market might improve us, I’m keen to see how he can get more out of some of the existing squad.
I don’t need to go through the names, but there are clearly young Arsenal players who have come so far and then kind of plateaued in terms of their development. There are ‘senior’ players who are capable of more than we’ve seen, and I’m particularly interested to see what kind of approach we’re going to take with youth development.
Another season in the Europa League will surely present chances for young players to play some first team football and, if they perform well, force themselves into the manager’s thinking further. Last season, rather than provide a truly competitive environment for fringe players, Europe seemed to create a two-tier system, and we never really got the benefits from either side.
I assume Emery’s remit will be to get the club back into the Champions League, and clearly the best way to do that is finish in the top four. Therefore focus will be on the Premier League, so how he juggles his team domestically and for Europe is going to be interesting. We knew how Wenger was going to do it, maybe the new man’s approach will be to find a bit more continuity between his Thursday and Sunday teams.
Behind the scenes, we know there are improvements to be made also, and while we’re still awaiting full details about his own backroom team and assistants, it seems as if we’re going to finally address an area which has long required attention. Javi Garcia was the goalkeeping coach with Emery at PSG, and reports say he’ll come in to work with him at Arsenal where a vacancy exists after the departure of Gerry Peyton.
The former Irish international was part of Wenger’s staff for years, but in recent times had been hampered by injury, and with all due respect to him, the game and training methods have moved on considerably. The new man should be bring focus and innovation to our sessions, and the only question now is which keepers he’ll be working with.
Obviously Petr Cech is the new number 1 (from a shirt point of view), but it would be a surprise if Arsenal didn’t buy a keeper this summer, so there ought to be some changes in that area for next season. Some have wondered about Jens Lehmann coaching the keepers, but if you listened to the live Arsecast Extra last week, you’ll have heard Amy Lawrence explain how he really doesn’t want to be a goalkeeping coach, he has never wanted that job, and his sights are set higher than that.
Speaking of Arsecast Extra, there was plenty to talk about yesterday including our potential defensive signings, the impact of Sven Mislintat on recruitment and lots more. Check it out below, and we’ll have any breaking news today over on Arseblog News.