5 wins in a row for Arsenal but stronger tests await Emery

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It’s been a long time since Arsenal felt this good, at least 10 years and every fan will be lapping this up and praising Unai Emery as Arsenal have now won 5 Premier League games in a row. Once we count their Carabao Cup and Europa League match wins that figure turns to 7 games in a row.

There is no question that after losing their first two games of the season against Manchester City and Chelsea respectively that the feel good factor is here and Emery is slowing turning Arsenal’s fortunes around. Players are now responding to what he wants, to play the ball out from the back, have a high line and attack without fear and the constant winning will be leading some fans to wonder who Arsene Wenger was- well at least the last 10 years of his tenure there.

And yet of course Arsenal still have many sterner tests ahead of them. For Emery the board have made it clear that they expect the Gunners back in the Champions League – so that means a top 4 finish. A long run in the cups would be to an advantage but if Arsenal end up with no silverware this season but get the top 4 many will be satisfied with that in Emery’s debut season.

However are Arsenal selling themselves a little short? Look at Chelsea who are clearly going for the league title under new manager Maurizio Sarri. Arsenal have been very positive so far this season but have still come up short in the two real tests that they have had to encounter against Sarri’s Chelsea and also to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. However it seems that this was more of a timing problem than the opposition in question. It’s quite difficult in your first game in England to have to face the champions of the country.

Arsenal look to have a nice path of fixtures for October where they will play Fulham, Leicester and Crystal Palace all matches where we could expect the Gunners to get maximum points or at the very least 7 from 9. Their next big test won’t come until the beginning of November when they will play Liverpool but even that game will be at home. With a good run Arsenal could easily be in the top 3 come the beginning of December and whilst a league challenge does not seem realistic this season, with Emery steering the ship the club look like they are going in the right direction.

Arsenal are playing a very risky game with Aaron Ramsey

 

Aaron Ramsey’s contract negotiations have stalled, and it looks likely that the Welsh midfielder will leave Arsenal either in January or at the end of the season, when his current deal expires. According to David Ornstein, Ramsey and Arsenal had agreed on a new four-year contract, but the club recently withdrew it.

We might never know if this had anything to do with Ivan Gazidis’ recent departure. It’s pretty much irrelevant if it did or not, but it does represent a significant risk for the club, particularly when Ramsey has so clearly been an integral part of Unai Emery’s plans.

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Five wins in a row and positives aplenty for Unai Emery’s Arsenal

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Arsenal collected their first clean sheet of the season when they defeated Marco Silva’s Everton 2-0 in London on Sunday evening. The win marked their fifth consecutive win in all competitions.

The Gunners got off to a rather torrid start to their campaign, losing to Manchester City and Chelsea in their opening games. Continue reading

Unai Emery is right about Mesut Ozil

Is there a player in the Premier League who has as much said and written about him as Mesut Ozil? The German playmaker has become a lightning rod of opinion like no other since signing for Arsenal from Real Madrid back in the summer of 2013. The past five years has witnessed incessant talk of what his best position is, his true worth to the Gunners and his commitment as a professional.

But even by such a standard, chat around Ozil has reached fever pitch in recent months. First there was the controversy following Germany’s exit from the World Cup, with the playmaker retiring from international duties amid accusations of racism. Then there was a reported feud between Ozil and new Arsenal manager Unai Emery, with the 29-year-old left out of the squad for a game against West Ham last month.

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The real Ozil stood up for Arsenal in their win over Newcastle United at the weekend, though. The German scored what proved to the winner for the Gunners at St James’ Park and was influential throughout. It offered a glimpse of the player Ozil could, and perhaps should, be for Arsenal.

“I want to find with him the possibility to do the best, to make decisive passes, to do more near and in the box to score,” Emery explained after the win in the North-East. “He is working for the team to help us with his quality. But he is feeling like I am feeling. He can improve, he can do more. We will work, we will help him, give him the possibility on the pitch to be together, to find his qualities for us.”

Some have been quick to question Ozil’s commitment over the years. It is something of a quirk of his Arsenal career to date that before the weekend the German had never travelled to Newcastle as a Gunner. That’s the kind of thing that would be used by certain figures to angle allegations of laziness at the playmaker.

It’s true that Ozil’s languid body language doesn’t always do him a favour, but Emery is talking about something different. He is talking about the influence that the German has on his side. Ozil quite clearly has the ability to dictate games for the Gunners, but we rarely see that sort of performance from him.

Emery needs leaders on the pitch at this early stage of his Arsenal career. Ozil, given his experience at the very top of the game, should be one of those leaders. At present, he isn’t, though. That’s where the frustration must like for the Spaniard. Ozil’s performance against Newcastle United showed just how dominant he can be. Now, he must repeat that sort of display on a more regular basis.

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Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil needs to step up with legacy up in the air

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Last week marked the fifth year anniversary of Mesut Ozil’s signing for Arsenal. With the club then unwilling to spend double digits on a player, his arriving at the Emirates Stadium for £42.5 million at a tender age age of 24, especially on the back of winning the World Cup was a huge sign of intent from Arsene Wenger and the club. Continue reading

Same old Arsenal

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It’s been 15 years since Arsenal last won the Premier League title. 15 long years.

Almost as many as the gap between their title wins in 1971 and 1989.

That’s far from where the Gunners want to be at this juncture, and whether the blame lies with Arsene Wenger or the board is a moot point.

Since Unai Emery has taken over, nothing really has changed. It’s not a knock at the Spaniard as such, because he can’t possibly be judged on a handful of games, but it would’ve been expected that he’d make an impact.

Perhaps not even in results terms initially, but in the way that the team is set up.

It’s not wrong to hark back to the days of Adams, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn. The game has moved on of course, but one thing hasn’t changed and that is teams who win the title are built on the bedrock of a solid defence.

Even with the addition of Sokratis to partner Mustafi, you feel that this Arsenal side are still beatable.

One only has to look at the way they threw away a two-goal lead at Cardiff, and how lucky they were that Alexandre Lacazette was able to rescue the three points for them.

Similarly, West Ham were all over the Gunners in their fixture but were unable to convert their dominance into goals. Manuel Pellegrini has his own problems, but at least with the east Londoners, not an awful lot is expected of them in truth.

Arsenal have always been a gold standard outfit.

Able to attract the best players, and playing a brand of football that was both attractive and practical. There were players to put their foot in, and these would complement the more technical exponents. They were diligent in their work.

Now Arsenal just look lost, and the reality is that they’re becoming the same old Arsenal. It’s what’s expected.

The knee-jerk ‘fan tv’ assessments directly after a game aren’t helpful but, by and large, some supporters have a point.

If there were a core of players that would ‘put sweat on the shirt’ for want of a better phrase, those that pay their hard-earned every week would give these overpaid superstars their full backing.

But when you have players like Mesut Ozil just strolling around seemingly not worried with what’s happening around him, then there will be problems.

In the Europa League and now unable to attract the best players to the Emirates, unless Emery sorts it out quickly it’ll be another 15 years before Arsenal come close to the Premier League summit.

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Emery mustn’t allow Ozil saga to become like Mourinho v Pogba

Unai Emery struggled to hide the real reason behind Mesut Ozil’s omission from Arsenal’s matchday squad for the weekend’s home match against West Ham. Officially, the German was posted missing due to illness. Emery maintained this line with his first answer in the post-match interview. His second answer, however, gave away a little more.

“Maybe,” he said with a smirk whether he had discussed using Ozil in a different position with the player himself when he last saw the German on the Thursday before Saturday’s game. That suggested that there was more to his absence that just a bout of illness. It gave credence to the notion that friction has grown between the two men.

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This is perhaps unsurprising. Emery is attempting to implement a new style of play at the Emirates Stadium, asking players who had grown accustomed to doing things one way to do it another. Naturally, there will be friction with some players. That is an unavoidable part of this process.

But this episode mustn’t be allowed to explode into something bigger. For a cautionary tale, Arsenal should look at Manchester United, where the friction between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba has become a season-defining issue. Now, it’s got to such a point that it’s difficult to envisage how the two figures will ever succeed at the same club. It has to be one or the other.

So while friction between players and managers can be seen as healthy when manifested in the right way, Emery must be wary of where his current problems with Ozil could lead. The German player is a divisive figure, with some Arsenal fans believing he is the one their team should be built around, and other Arsenal fans arguing that he should be sold. That he isn’t worth the new contract he was handed in the second half of last season.

At this stage of his tenure, Emery cannot afford many distractions. He has so much work to do to untangle the years of mediocrity, and the culture that brought, under Arsene Wenger. He has a group of players, who he largely inherited, to mould in the way he wants. That will take time, but the unfortunate truth is that time will be short for the Spaniard to deliver results.

Ozil, on his day, is one of the very best in the Premier League. There are few who are as influential as he is. It’s important that Emery gets him on side, but at the same time the new Gunners boss must make his stance clear to the German. It’s feasible that this could turn into another Mourinho v Pogba saga, but Arsenal mustn’t allow it to get to that stage.

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Arsenal and West Ham United face crucial test as under fire managers look at first points

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Not many expected Arsenal to collect any point from their opening fixtures against Premier League winners Manchester City and Chelsea. Unai Emery’s men, despite losing both, gave their fans enough reasons to be optimistic going into matchday three, however. Continue reading

Germany Eliminated From the World Cup

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Just about the biggest shock imaginable at this summer’s World Cup has now taken place. With almost every major international tournament there are a few surprises in store, particularly during the earlier stages when some of the less fancied teams take to the field with a point to prove. That proved to be the case in Group F when Germany went up against South Korea on Wednesday afternoon, needing a win to smooth a path through to the last 16. What ensued was a thoroughly sub-par performance from the reigning world champions, and two injury time goals in South Korea’s favour ensured Germany were out of the competition at the first hurdle for the first time since 1938. South Korea went ballistic, but the Germans were atrocious.

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