Arsenal recorded their third loss in the last six Premier League matches at the weekend. The defeat against West Ham put a dent in the club’s hopes of getting back into the top four in the league, subsequently returning to the Champions League. While it has surely been a disappointing past month for both the players and the supporters, the Emery era at Arsenal was always going to be a test of patience.
Morale was extremely high earlier in the season following a run of 22 consecutive games unbeaten in all competitions. Glimpses of what head coach Unai Emery will bring to the team were on full display. Yet despite this, many suggesting ‘overnight changes’ were occurring at the club may have been jumping the gun.
The Gunners were firing, scoring a plethora of goals over the first half of the season. Defensive frailties, however, were still plaguing the team. In fact, Arsenal have recorded just three clean sheets in their 22 league matches so far during the current campaign. The injury to center back Rob Holding has particularly been a significant setback to the defense.
Expectations for quick results at the club under Emery were never really realistic. Despite some solid summer acquisitions, it will take some time for the team’s brass to sort out the roster. Much like Jurgen Klopp needing a few transfer windows to drastically improve Liverpool, Arsenal will need the same. However, there is a big difference between what Emery can do and what Klopp has done at Anfield.
Emery was brought to Arsenal as a head coach rather than a manager. There is a difference. As head coach, the Spaniard obviously coaches the team, picks starting XIs, and manages in-game situations; however, he does not have a big say in player transfers.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Mauricio Pochettino was initially hired at Spurs as a head coach. He explained the difference in 2014. “If you are the manager, you decide many things about the club,” claimed Pochettino. “But if you are a head coach, your responsibility is to play better, try to improve the players, and to get positive results.” The Spurs boss was later given the title of manager following a new contract with the club in 2016.
There are certainly positive pieces already implemented at Arsenal though and four or five solid moves could be exactly what this team needs to eventually be closer to the top of the table. These transfers are going be easier to do this summer when five players with expiring contracts could very well depart the club.
With an average age of 32 on June 1st, the potentially outgoing quintet consisting of Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech, Danny Welbeck, Stephan Lichtsteiner, and Nacho Monreal reportedly make a combined £22.6 million per season. This large chunk of player wages should be relatively easily redistributed to new recruits in the summer.
Emery is a very good coach though and he has shown that he can win trophies. Handling player egos may not necessarily be his strong suit; however, no one can take away what he has accomplished in his coaching career. The process and upward trend will take some time, but Emery deserves time to figure things out (as does the Gunners’ brass of Sven Mislintat, Raul Sanllehi, and Vinai Venkatesham).
Arsenal do, however, have more points in the Premier League now than they had at this point last season. They are also still involved in the FA Cup and Europa League competitions. With 16 league matches left in the current campaign, there is also plenty of time to make up the necessary points to get back into the top four. The Gunners sit six points outside of a Champions League place, but will have a huge chance to cut that in half when fourth-placed Chelsea visit the Emirates on Saturday.
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