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Setting Expectations For The Arsenal This Season

With the World Cup now over and the start of the Premier League season still two full weeks away, us Gooners find ourselves in a strange kind of limbo-land. Arsenal have by all accounts concluded their major transfer business with the acquisitions of: Stephan Lichtsteiner, Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Lucas Torreira as first team squad members alongside promising young midfielder Mattéo Guendouzi and the hardly unexpected departure of Jack Wilshere. Although doubts still remain over Aaron Ramsey’s future and there is still some potential trimming of the squad to be done before it all kicks off at home to Champions Manchester City.

Taken purely at face value, the business we have done this summer is positive in that the priority areas: in goal, in the backline, adding some steel to the midfield and generally toughening up the squad, have finally been addressed.

As outlined by our esteemed editor-in-chief in his recent piece How Unai Emery’s 4-3-3 Could Work At Arsenal, the first choice line-up looks much more balanced and set up to play with the style and approach that we have seen from Unai Emery at his previous clubs. So what can we hope for from the new coach’s first season in charge?

High pressing, more direct, less tippy-tappy.

It seems clear from his time with Seville and PSG in particular, that Arsenal’s new coach comes from the new school of tactical philosophy, like rivals Klopp, Pochettino and the high-lord of possession football himself, Pep Guardiola, Emery’s philosophy is founded upon winning possession of the ball high up the pitch and using the transition as the basis to launch attacks and catch the opposition off guard. For Gooners who have gone beyond frustration watching the latter incarnations of Wenger’s sides pass the ball incessantly around in front of massed opposition defensive ranks, this should be music to our ears.

Maybe this new proactive approach to winning the ball combined with high-paced, dynamic and fluid counter-attacks from a revamped attacking trio might make it fun to watch Arsenal again.

Better tactical organisation.

Despite only playing for him briefly in 2015, Italian defender Marco Andreolli said of our new coach: ‘Unai and his staff are on top of every little detail. They don’t leave anything to chance… on the training pitch he works hard on defensive phases and how to counter particular opponents.’ Whereas, over the last decade it had pretty much become accepted knowledge that Arsène Wenger’s approach was much more ‘laissez-faire’, to coin a phrase from his homeland; preferring his players to work it out for themselves and to endeavour to impose their style of play on the opposition, rather than focus on negating the opposition’s strengths.

Time and again this philosophy saw his teams become exposed by more streetwise, tenacious and frankly downright tougher sides. All too often games were thrown away as the remaining defenders were left exposed with too many players committed forward.

Even at this early stage, the noises coming out of London Colney and from pre-season training in Singapore suggest that Emery has already been drilling the players hard on the training field, hammering home what he expects from them tactically. If the new man’s approach can go some way to making us harder to beat, less easily opened-up, more resilient even, especially in the big games, then he will go a long way to winning over Arsenal supporters right from the off.

Aubameyang the goal machine with a rejuvenated Özil supplying the ammunition.

Despite only arriving in January, being cup-tied in the Europa League and only playing 13 matches Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang managed 10 goals for Arsenal last season; prompting many of us to start to imagine just how good he might be when he settles in properly! Meanwhile, the announcement from Mesut Özil last week that he was to quit international football citing ‘racism and disrespect’ has placed the spotlight well and truly on our mercurial playmaker.

It is fair to say that Özil’s performances and contribution over his time at the club have underwhelmed somewhat, in his defence this can in part be explained by the lack of structure to our play and the inferior quality of the players he has been asked to supply; but only fleetingly have we seen the player that we thought we had signed. However with a lightning-quick goal-machine like Aubameyang to feed, a better thought-out attacking structure, and a creative accomplice like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, surely all the ingredients are there for Özil to really start to deliver.

 Going into the unknown.

How many times since the stadium move have we heard Gooners talk about Groundhog Day? We may indeed have been spoiled, and sure most teams would have swapped places with us and settled for perennial qualification for the Champions League, but frankly it had all gone stale. We were never good enough to challenge for the really big prizes nor were we ever bad enough to have a really poor season, even over the last two seasons, our worst under Arsène we still qualified for the Europa League.

Now for the first time we go into a season not really knowing how things might turn out. We hope that Emery and his new regime will surpass all expectation and return us to the very top of the game, but at the back of our minds is the fear that it might all go wrong. Whatever happens, for the first time in a long time it promises to be an exciting ride.

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