Unai Emery has started life at Arsenal in a positive fashion both domestically and in Europe.
The 47-year-old took over from Arsene Wenger at the start of the season, and despite back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League to begin his reign at Arsenal, Emery has since found his feet and the Gunners are currently on an impressive 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
With a new manager comes new hope and it does seem that the Spaniard has instilled belief and new life in the Emirates faithful and players alike. There is, however, problems that still exist as evident from a handful of performances already this season – none more so than Sunday’s recent 1-1 home result against Wolves.
The Gunners are playing with more freedom and fluidity under Emery but defending and positioning without possession remains a big problem that needs urgent addressing. Nonetheless, Arsenal currently sit fifth in the Premier League with 24 points from 12 games so far (W7 D3 L2) netting 26 goals and conceding 15. They have also qualified from their Europa League group and the fans (most of them anyway) appear happy and keen with what Emery has done thus far.
Having seen most of Arsenal matches this season, Emery still has a lot of work to do and time is a necessity for him to achieve what he wants. With that said, here are five things that the Spaniard should focus on to improve this Arsenal side:
1. Sign a winger
This has been a problem for a couple of seasons at Arsenal. The team lack a natural, pacey winger that can cause problems to opposition defences and create for the strikers. The likes of Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all played out wide this season but none look totally comfortable in this position. If Arsenal can sign a winger who can operate preferably on both flanks, then that would give the side more versatility and options going forward.
2. Torreira must start
The signing of Lucas Torreira over the summer has been received with much praise from both pundits and fans alike. The Uruguayan’s tenacity, energy and doggedness has gone down a treat and has made Arsenal’s midfield much more resolute than in previous seasons. When Torreira starts there is a positive feeling around the atmosphere and fans the feel at ease knowing the 22-year-old will fight for the side.
3. Show up in the first-half
I believe Arsenal are the only team in the Premier League yet to score in the first 45 minutes which is an astonishing stat considering the creativity and attack they possess. Failure to score in the first 45 minutes has come under some criticism from the media and is something Emery himself has expressed is a concern. The slow starts are worrying and needs to be addressed.
4. Stop rotating strikers
I know the Spaniard does this to please his frontmen and to accommodate for future games in Europe etc, but he needs to decide which out of Lacazette and Aubameyang is his first-choice. Both strikers have scored already this season in the Premier League (Laca – five in 11, Auba – seven in 10) but the constant rotating of the two will disrupt their confidence and goalscoring streak in the long-term. One must start when fully fit while the other remains on the bench. Both cannot play together as one will be hindered playing out of position on the wing.
5. Sort out the defence
This is the recurring problem Arsenal have faced since as long as I can remember, and it will be one job Emery will find difficult to fix, especially in the short-term. Although Arsenal find the back of the net often, their defensive frailties are still there for all to see. The signing of Sokratis from Dortmund over the summer looks a good piece of business thus far as the Greek has added strength to the back-line, while Stephan Lichtsteiner has added experience, versatility and depth. Rob Holding’s emergence this season has been really pleasing to see and looks to have a bright future ahead of him. However, the former Bolton defender lacks experience. Emery will need to add to his defensive line if the Gunners are to become serious title contenders in the future. It won’t be a quick fix and the Spaniard will need time to address this – the January transfer window will be the perfect place to start.