Emery’s Possible Approaches to Squad Integration
by Azih Chimezie
With the advent of the new head coach taking the reins the Emirates it remains to be seen what the fate of the current crop of youngsters at Arsenal will be. Unai Emery, who was appointed last week, has had his own fair share of records with youthful talents over the course of his managerial career. With the likes Sergio Rico, Isco, Lo Celso only but to mention a few, having all initiated their professional careers under the Spaniard, it is clear that the former PSG coach is an advocate of vibrancy and youthfulness in the structure of his teams over the years and fans will be hoping he doesn’t totally abandon that part of his game.
Immediately after Unai’s appointment, Arsenal’s Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis, came out to say that part of reasons he was selected as the best replacement for Wenger was due to his seemingly well-grounded knowledge base of the players in the North London outfit as well as his acquiescence of the values beholden at the club. However, with the current condition of the club: having been out of the top four, and consequently, Champions league participation for two consecutive seasons now, expectations are pretty high from the Arsenal fan base who would be hoping that the manager hits the ground running within the next year or two.
Obviously to meet up with these expectations would mean that an element of the club’s values may have to be undermined for a while. It may turn out to be a case of having to choose between preserving the youth integration system that was quite active at the club during Wenger’s time, and bringing in the much needed reinforcements at the club. Wenger’s last season saw the likes of Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Rob Holden and Ainsley Maitland Niles all featuring for the first team in the course of the season. And although not all of them were able to stake much claim to a position in the first team, they proved their worth and gave the fans enough reasons to be excited, knowing what the future might hold for the club going forward. Most of these players may now have to suffer some of the perks of being in a top flight team that is looking to refurbish as Unai has already started making serious moves in the transfer market.
The likes of Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Juventus’ out-of-contract right back, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Nice’s Jean-Michael Seri are names that have all being closely linked with the gunners of late. And if these deals pull through, it will invariably mean that there would be lesser opportunities for the youngsters. The alternative however would be to create a sort of balance between adequate youth integration and putting up active competition for major trophies: something that has proven time and again to be an arduous and somewhat contradictory task for most managers, especially new ones. Emery’s savvy decision-making ability will definitely have to come to play here.