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Three ways that Unai Emery can win over the Arsenal fans.


Spaniard Unai Emery took charge of Arsenal at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, following in the footsteps of club legend Arsene Wenger. Clearly, this was going to be a difficult task- Arsene Wenger had instilled a possession-based philosophy at Arsenal football club that was aesthetically-pleasing, playing vibrant attacking football that became known as “Wengerball”. The main problem of this, however, was that it left the defence exposed and often didn’t get the results Arsenal fans craved. Emery, much to many fans’ distaste, has veered from this philosophy. In this article, I will outline three things that Emery can do that will begin to get fans back on-side.

Play a more dynamic midfield

It is clear that the Arsenal boss does not know what his best starting XI is. This is personified in midfield, where five players (Excluding Mesut Ozil) are vying for two or three spots, depending on the formation. Whilst Granit Xhaka splits opinion, Lucas Torreira is being bafflingly misused and Matteo Guendouzi is fast-approaching undroppable. The problem with playing the trio together, as has been shown already this season, is that there is a distinct lack of dynamism and creativity until the ball reaches the front three, which it rarely does. Having no midfield runners hinders both wingers, especially Nicolas Pepe, who works best with players whom he can exchange passes with.

By playing either youth starlet Joe Willock or Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos in the no.8 role alongside Guendouzi, Arsenal will have the beginnings of a very good progressive midfield. In turn, this will allow more room for error by the forwards, as more chances will be created for them. Emery does seem settled on the 4-3-3 formation this season, and playing a trio with at least one of Willock and Ceballos will vastly improve his chances of maintaining this frankly lucky string of results.

Take the game to teams.

So far this season, Arsenal have consistently found themselves on the back foot against mid to low-league teams, the epitome of this being stuttering to a 2-2 draw against Watford. The key criticism from all corners was that the team was too defensively set-up, which allowed the Hornets to have 31 Shots. In the Wenger era, Arsenal would have continued to attack even at 2-0 up, often putting the game well out of the reach of such a comeback. By sitting back, Emery almost made the result inevitable.

I for one was watching expecting to lose. That is not Arsenal. The easiest way to fix this is through the midfield balance, as mentioned above. This will facilitate possession play further up the pitch, rather than camping in our own defensive third. In turn, this will take some of the pressure away from Arsenal’s defence, which is, of course, renowned for its frailty. Theoretically, therefore, seizing the initiative against sides outside of the top eight (I respectfully include Wolves and Leicester City in this) would offer a far greater chance of convincingly gaining points, and also would serve to minimise the frequency of defensive errors.

Carry on picking up points.

Like it or not, football fans are generally fickle enough to react positively to results, even if the performance is lacking. Although this is harder for Arsenal fans due to the identity of the brand of football they are used to, the same thing will happen. If Emery continues to pick up points by playing a poor, or non-Arsenal, style of football, the fans will eventually begin to warm to him. The accusation levelled at Arsene Wenger was his lack of pragmatism, yet that levelled at Emery is death by pragmatism.

To be sure, there is a line to be found between the two, yet Arsenal fans have been crying out for meaningful results for years. Were Emery to end the season in third place and with a trophy (both very real possibilities), it is unlikely that Arsenal fans would have too much animosity towards the Spaniard. Football, however, is only a results business if the results have some meaning. If he begins to look as though he will end the season empty-handed, he will not have his style of football to endear him to the fans. League position and trophies are therefore imperative.

Personally, I think that the jury remains out on Emery. Knowing his reliance on fullbacks to make his system work, I am willing to reserve judgment until his first choice options are re-integrated into the starting XI. In the meantime, however, his methods are getting fortuitous results. The three things I have outlined would not only endear him more to the fans but also result in a more attractive brand of football which would gain him further acceptance amongst the fans.

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