Written by

Alla Zakarian

04-09-2018 | 17:47 Football

3 reasons why Arsenal fans can be pleased with Unai Emery's start at the Emirates

Unai Emery started his Premier League life with defeat to Manchester City. Arsenal have only won two in four games. Arsenal’s first two games of the season couldn’t have been more difficult: Manchester City at home and Chelsea away. The Gunners were beaten in both games but wins against West Ham and Cardiff soon followed, making new boss Unai Emery's settling in period a whole lot easier. But here are three reasons why Arsenal fans should be happy with Emery's start to life in the Premier League.
  • Making big calls

Ever since he arrived at the Emirates Unai Emery has proven he's a man capable of making the big decisions. Take Mattéo Guendouzi, for example, A 19-year-old relative unknown bought from the French second division in the summer and thrown into the first game of the season against champions Manchester City. Emery could have easily left him on the bench, but his decision to start the youngster was a bold move and one that looks to have paid off given how well Guendouzi has played so far. Arsene Wenger was reluctant to make substitutions before the 70th minute and rarely dropped his senior players.  Mesut Ozil is the most high-profile example. Wenger always defended the playmaker against criticism, but Emery told him he needed to work harder. “Defensive moments are for each and every player,” Emery said after defeat to Manchester City. Ozil was then substituted in the 68th minute after another muted display against Chelsea, and he was not even in the squad when they faced West Ham. Ozil is not the only player to have felt Emery’s ruthlessness. Granit Xhaka started all but one of their Premier Leagues game under Wenger last season and was only substituted seven times in total, but he was hooked after 70 minutes against City and hauled off at half-time against Chelsea.
  • A philosophy (and midfield) taking shape

Much has been made of Emery's pressing philosophy that dictates that Arsenal should play out from the back, which like any new system has experienced some teething issues in its early stages. “I have to say that last season this idea that Arsenal were always great under Arsene Wenger playing the ball out from the back was a nonsense,” said Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville. “I thought they were hiding on the ball in midfield in the last two or three seasons. The combinations weren’t there and the options weren’t there.” “They are getting caught on occasions and the execution is wrong but to say that the idea is not there or it is the same as last year is an absolute nonsense and it is disrespectful,” added Neville. According to Opta, Cech has gone from averaging four short passes per 90 minutes last season to 21 in the new campaign. “Over most of my career I was always asked to play long, so this is a pleasant change for me,” said Cech. “Emery wants to play football and dominate the game and that’s what we’re doing, we’re not just kicking the ball up front,” added Henrikh Mkhitaryan. And while defensive deficiencies still remain, Arsenal, at least against Cardiff anyway, look to have struck up a midfield partnership they've been crying out for. Lucas Torreira was the difference maker for Arsenal in the second-half, as the team's progression up the pitch was stifled until the Uruguayan came on. Torreira touched the ball over 30 times in his first half-hour in the match - all of which were successful - including an assist for Lacazette. In the diminutive midfielder, Emery looks to have found the perfect compliment to Granit Xhaka, who's able to sit in a much deeper role when Torreira plays which benefits both the Swiss and the team. “He wants us to press and press really high up the pitch,” said Ramsey recently. “He demands a lot,” added Iwobi. “The coaches have different philosophies, they are completely different,” said Hector Bellerin in pre-season. “Arsene Wenger was a manager that left a lot of inspiration with the players. He gave you a lot of freedom and now Unai Emery is a bit more tactical, more organised on the pitch.” But while Emery’s players are still getting to grips with when and where to press, Premier League tracking data underlines a dramatic increase in intensity. Arsenal ranked eighth in the division for distance covered last season, but in the new campaign, they have covered more ground than any other side. They have also made the most high-intensity sprints.
  • Laca and Aubameyang starting to fire

Lacazette and Aubameyang were fantastic against Cardiff, and rewarded Emery's decision to start them together for the first time with a goal apiece. In recent times Arsenal have played with just one forward, regularly fielding an out-and-out striker with two wide men and a playmaker, but with such attacking talent at his disposal Emery has been forced to find a system that can fit both Lacazette and Aubameyang in. Clearly, both players have to start for Emery moving forward - an exciting prospect for all fans dreaming of the two being unleashed together.

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