Things were meant to be different under Unai Emery. He was the main anointed to oversee a complete overhaul of Arsenal, not just as a football team, but as a club and an organisation. And yet what we have seen from the Gunners this season has been very similar to what was witnessed over the latter years of Arsene Wenger’s tenure.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be so surprising. After all, Emery has inherited almost exactly the same squad that Wenger had to work with last season. Some additions were made in the summer, with Denis Suarez arriving on loan from Barcelona in the January window, but besides that, not much has changed in terms of personnel.
Or in terms of mindset either. Under Wenger last season, Arsenal went from the turn of the year to the very last game of the campaign without picking up a point away from home. This season, the Gunners have gone six Premier League away days in succession without a win, also suffering a defeat away to BATE Borisov in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Emery wasn’t just appointed to impose a new style of play on a team that had lost its identity. He was appointed to change the mentality at the Emirates Stadium and the early signs are that he has so far failed to do that, at least going on the frailty of Arsenal’s recent performances on the road.
“We can have better balance [in performances] when we prepare by thinking it’s going to be very difficult,” Emery said ahead of the trip to face Huddersfield this weekend. “I spoke with the players [and told them] we need to think this match is very important for us. Every player needs to be ready, be focused and be thinking we need to win this match.
“We must impose ourselves from the first minute and throughout the 90 minutes but first is the mentality. It’s to think this match will be very difficult. For us tactics are the second issue. The first is to think we need to win and after that it’s how we can win – preparing tactically and individually.”
Defeat to the relegation-threatened Terriers this weekend would really expose the issues in the minds of the Arsenal players right now. Earlier this season it seemed that progress had been made under Emery. Now, that is in question. A rebuttal is needed. And soon.
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