Arsenal: What does success look like for Unai Emery?
Some fans want a return to the Champions League, others simply to avoid collapse. But what about Emery?
After a decade of fog and stasis, Arsenal fans clamber gingerly into a new reality. With his slicked-back hair and crisp red polo, Unai Emery is a promise of better times. But what what will those better times look like in a season full of questions?
It’s safe to assume that the Gunners will be observers in the title race. Manchester City and Liverpool are the undeniable favourites, with Jose Mourinho and Manchester United running close behind.
There is little room for Emery to manoeuvre his charges into a title push just yet, as his opponents are simply too strong.
A return to the top table
Champions League qualification, therefore, becomes the ultimate goal. For the second year in a row, Arsenal will participate in the Europa League, a competition that fits them awkwardly.
Fourth place will be Emery’s Mecca, not least from a commercial sense. The Arsenal board indulged Arsene Wenger’s ossification so long as he raked in the Champions League cash and it was noticeable that Stan Kroenke took decisive action only when a second year outside that competition was guaranteed.
Discipline and coherence
For some Arsenal fans, the demands will be smaller still.
Watching their team collapse has become grimly familiar, particularly against the bigger sides. What they want – arguably more than anything – is some kind of cohesive and modern style, even if it doesn’t prove immediately effective.
Emery, who stuck religiously to a 4-3-3 formation in his time with Paris Saint-Germain, will provide them with that. Pressing – diligent, sweaty and uniform – is the very least that supporters should expect.
Arsenal fans want discipline. They want players to be rewarded for good performances, and they want shirkers relegated to the bench.
They want leaders on the pitch, grown footballers with the wherewithal to manage matters themselves and a coach able to intervene and adapt.
Tying players down
For a club unsure of itself, keeping hold of star players remains paramount.
Aaron Ramsey’s contract situation is worrisome indeed; tying the frustrating, fanciful Welshman down could give Emery a boon.
Nacho Monreal, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck’s expiring terms are less of a concern, but finding suitable replacements will be. The deals of Laurent Koscielny and Alex Iwobi – due both to lapse in 2020 – are hazards on the more distant horizon.
Nobody is sure what will happen with Arsenal this year. For all the recent acquisitions, this is still Wenger’s squad, and they can still excel and fail in equal measure.
Arsenal fans should be nervous about what this campaign holds, but they should he excited too.