How is Unai Emery leading Arsenal’s revolution?
Putting four past Tottenham, picking up bragging right in his first north London derby, and leapfrogging their bitter rivals to fourth spot, not even Unai Emery would have expected the immediate impact he is having at Arsenal.
Since losing their opening two Premier League outings against Manchester City and Chelsea, the Gunners are now enjoying a 19-match unbeaten run across all competitions and the former PSG boss has played a huge part in Arsenal’s transformation.
With their sights set on securing a return to Champions League football, Emery and his revitalized squad will head to Old Trafford on Wednesday, a ground that has been famously difficult for them in the past.
While they may have failed to win any of their last 11 top-flight matches in the red half of Manchester, Arsenal find their confidence at the highest it has been in recent memory and with their new boss in charge, the Gunners will be relishing another mouthwatering affair.
Looking a completely different side to the one that limped over the finish line last season, how exactly has Emery changed the mood at the Emirates?
Installing a new discipline
One of the biggest alterations that Emery has made to Arsenal’s style is installing a new relentless high-pressing approach.
With the likes of Hector Bellerin commenting on the grueling pre-season schedules Emery put them through, the results are clearly on display.
No side in the Premier League has covered more distance than Arsenal this season and they also sit top for the most sprints completed.
As he showed during his time in Paris, Emery is not afraid to make bold selection decisions, something Arsenal fans respect.
The most high profile case of this is the Arsenal’s highest earner and World Cup winner, Mesut Ozil.
Withdrawing the now former German international after just 65 minutes in their defeat at Stamford Bridge in August, Ozil also had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes at the Vitality last week.
In a structure that demands pressing from the front, Emery has made it abundantly clear he will not allow anyone to have a free ride in his side.
Arsenal with Mesut Özil in the starting XI this season:
Goals per game: 1.8
Conceded per game: 1.3
Arsenal without Mesut Özil in the starting XI this season:
Goals per game: 3.5
Conceded per game: 1.25 pic.twitter.com/DbYAv3m8Up
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) December 4, 2018
Although many of Arsenal’s stars had their commitment questioned last season, Emery’s discipline both on and off the pitch has bred a newfound resolve in the Gunners.
While the Arsenal of even six months ago would have imploded after conceding two quick goals against Tottenham, their second-half performance on Sunday almost epitomizes the new found belief at the Emirates.
Scoring three second-half goals, no team have picked up more points from losing positions this season and no side in the Premier League have scored more second-half goals.
Unlike the Arsenal side who used to go into cruise control for large spells of their game, Emery will not allow the smallest sign of complacency to slip into his camp.
While many previously labeled Arsenal one dimensional and highlighted Wenger’s reluctance to make alterations during the end of his tenure, Emery couldn’t be more different.
A methodical tactician who studies every aspect of the game, the 47-year-old will not allow his side to become as predictable as they were in recent time.
Looking to broaden Arsenal’s playbook, Emery has not been afraid to tinker with his tactics and layout in several different formations.
Over his three matches between the end of September and the start of October, he altered his formation three times, a trait he has kept with over recent weeks.
Drawing three consecutive league matches last month playing his trademark 4-2-3-1, the Arsenal fans called for a change and Emery was quick to respond.
Swapping to a three at the back for their pair of victories over Bournemouth and Spurs, his tactical changes have helped ease the pressure on a defence that was incredibly vulnerable last season.
One man who has lorded Emery’s diverse approach is summer arrival Sokratis.
“It’s very good, because sometimes in matches like this you need to find a new tactic to win or play better. It is good that the manager works on a lot of situations and we learned a lot about what we have to do in games.”
While it might be the things that fly under the radar, it has been Emery’s attention to detail that is helping him receive a long list of admirers.
Installing a new outside gym only a stone’s throw from their training pitches, their Spanish boss has also insisted that his side spend more time training at the Emirates in an effort to get his squad more accustomed to their surroundings.
While Emery might still be in the elementary stage of his time in north London, Arsenal appear to have found the perfect successor to Wenger.
Although the additions of the likes of Sokratis and Bernd Leno are undoubtedly making an immediate impact, there is one new signing in particular who has endeared himself to Arsenal fans.
Putting in yet another dominant display in his debut in the north London derby, Lucas Torreira appears to be the defensive midfielder that Arsenal have been crying out for over the past few years.
With no player in Serie A making more interceptions over the past two seasons, Torrieria and his terrier-like work are the blueprint for what Emery is looking for at the heart of his midfield.
Signing from Sampdoria following an impressive World Cup with Uruguay, the 22-year-olds arrival in the Premier League has been nothing short of colossal.
Lucas Torreira has been named Premier League Man of the Match in three of Arsenal's last four games:
? vs. Liverpool
? vs. Bournemouth
? vs. Spurs
What a signing he has been. pic.twitter.com/kObJME1s2H
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 2, 2018
Now boasting a pass accuracy of 90%, the highest of any midfielder in north London, no player in red has one more interceptions or made more tackles than Torreira.
Affectionately dubbed ‘The Uruguayan Kante’, he made 43 interceptions in November, putting him joint first with Huddersfield’s Jonathan Hogg.
Putting in an early case for Arsenal’s Player of the Year, Torreira’s presence at the heart of their midfield is radiating through the side.
One man who appears to be relishing the chance to play alongside the young Uruguayan is midfield partner Granit Xhaka.
Previously playing as Arsenal’s deepest lying midfielder, Xhaka often look looked uncomfortable and was a constant liability in front of Shkodran Mustafi and co.
However, with Torreira having that ability to sniff out danger and being a natural defensive midfielder, the Swiss international is allowed to play with more freedom and focus on distributing the play.
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