This arrived as a comment from ‘theGoon’ about an hour ago, but I believe that this is more than good enough to be an article in it’s own right. Enjoy!
As much as I understand fans, pundits and everyone is afraid of rating Arsenal as a title contender or jinxing their run and talks of ‘it’s only been 5 games’ and we should not get carried away, I TOTALLY DISAGREE.
And I only do so because I was waiting to see how things pan out. I had/have a theory and I am not surprised with Unai’s management so far… I am not here to say I told you so but like I said: I had/have a theory – and I am sticking by it till end of the season especially after watching Arsenal’s performances so far. I think Arsenal will be up there come end of season.
Here are my reasons….
1. Arsene Wenger, although almost inept in every game tactically, still managed to finish top 4 every season except the recent ones by simply asking this team to ‘Just play our football’ and we will be alright. As much as Spurs, etc, have improved their squads, Wenger knew how to keep this squad good enough for top 4 despite not preparing appropriately for opposition, that is partly to the level of quality that was good enough to do just that.
2.Unai on the other hand, is the exact obsessive opposite of Wenger when it comes to tactics and if you listen closely at post game player interviews, they all seem to highlight an element of anticipation of an aspect of the opposition’s game they were facing. This alone is bound to improve the squad Wenger left… even Mustafi was not being told what to do!
Unai is probably the only one to humiliate Barca 4-1 in the Champion’s league, that alone is massive statement despite the loss in the reverse match fixture.
3. Unlike LVG, AVB, Pep, Klopp, etc No disrespect…. one must respect the EPL for what it is and not just for you to rock up and get players that suit your philosophy… Its good Pep had Arteta and they eventually got Walker etc.
How you know that a man is ready for this league is when a manager knows he must build from the back. Conte is more defensive minded and had to do so, Ranieri had his experience and knew what he needed… Goke Inler was always on the bench, that alone should tell you the kind of ship he was running.
Auba and Lacazette were Wenger signings, granted, but Unai, Sven, & Co immediately went for proven experience at the back, he had Cech already brought in an understudy in Leno. Unai was already giving analysis in his interviews of the EPL about how Man City was winning games & the title with pressing. He also highlighted the importance of having a player like Kante in your squad. This is a man who started his homework before he started his job.
4. Knowing HOW to win. It is one thing to have a history of being a proven winner so many xx years ago, but when you have on your CV winning in the recent past consecutively, you don’t come to a league to aim to come out 4th. You focus is learning how to win GAMES and not necessarily the league. Unai has instilled the mentality in the players of learning how to win each game and that’s a big difference. Every player right now is buying into the manager’s instructions because they are seeing the impact. Especially when we lost to Chelsea, they were gutted because they knew they threw that game away. The players could be extra motivated by several reasons:
1. The element of change at the club
2. To impress the new manager
3. The players believe the manager knows how to win and his instructions are the key ….which is difficult if your current manager has not won squat for a long time, even when you do it’s been out of a build of years of frustration, and even when muster up all you have to give a proper send-off things just don’t come off. Even if Unai was not a good manager, there is something about taking instructions from a new entity. Most people don’t even know he has been the most successful manager, in terms of accolades, past 10 years in Europe followed by Zidane.
5. January Transfer Window. We are being linked to Miguel etc, but depending on what Unai & co decide to do in January can only affect and improve our season for the better, bar the Ramsey situation.
6. Squad Rotation – Arsenal has kids who are not coming on as kids but players who actually impact our game. We are resting players, and everyone is playing, even if it’s just 15 mins, and that builds the unity in the squad and no one is being left behind. The emphasis is on ‘the team’ right now and not individuals, and that is a culture I hope we keep like Barca had for years. In hindsight, this is why Emery introduced new rules of older players eating (and having no phones) with the kids. It’s about respecting the profession and unity regardless of who is playing.
7. Player Improvement Track record. Unai’s Development includes David Silva, Mata, David Villa, Jordi Alba, Herrera, and before the season Mbappe attributed his goal scoring form to the man. So now it’s not a surprise the work ethic and improvements we are seeing in Iwobi, Bellerin and Co.
8. PSG – Egos, Egos, Egos. He is now at a club with a set-up he is more comfortable with and knows how to work with what he has… so far we can’t complain when every player is chipping in on the goals and being told to do so.
10. Bottle- I have never believed this team will bottle it, or have a season of 2 halves like we always did under Wenger because it was always down to the mentality being instilled by the manager. For years we did so because the manager left that responsibility to the players to ‘Lead themselves’ and show ‘spirit’. I don’t see us struggling during Christmas etc because it’s down to game management, which I don’t see Unai struggling with. Under wenger we were always reacting to a poor run of form. Fine, Arsenal may lose or draw a game here and there, but I don’t see this manager allowing this team to not turn up for a string of games. No! That’s not happening this time around.
11. League History – At times, the teams that seem to do well and win this league are teams that build their momentum slowly like Man Utd of “Old”. Arsenal are yet to hit top form and who knows what form people like Auba, Iwobi, Smith-Rowe, Welbeck, Torreira and Xhaka and the kids might be in terms of goal contribution.
12. RESPECT – Sorry, but not preparing for opposition and fielding kids and not prioritizing the needs of fans and the injection of victory even for small trophies is a blatant display of ARROGANCE. That arrogance filtered to our players and even down to the training, they expected to win games not based on merit. When I see Unai putting out strong teams and doing his research, I see a man that respects the game and each tournament. What we as fans are seeing is the template of what it takes to win the Europa Cup, and this has been eye opening for me personally because I couldn’t see our previous manager do that.