Arsenal have had an oscillating season up to this point. After going twenty-two matches without a loss, the Gunners have experienced disappoint defeats in both the Europa League and FA Cup. The squad suffered a bitter and lackluster defeat against Bate Borisov, and will enter this week’s clash with it all to do to move on to the round of 16. Arsenal have managed to stay relevant in the fight for a top four finish. However, after the turn of fortune under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United look to be a serious threat to keep hold of the final coveted Champions League place. Many pundits and supporters have stressed the desire for Arsenal to allow Unai Emery around four transfer windows to build the squad out as he sees fit. Patience is the popular word being thrown around with Unai Emery’s potential tenure with the club. Perhaps, Emery needs the next few seasons to instill his mentality and values into his squad, and for the most of the players appear to have bought in to his philosophy. Yet, Unai Emery should not get too comfortable with his timetable and his job security should be under intense scrutiny heading into the 2019/20 season.
Please do not take what is being said as hoping for Emery’s failure at Arsenal, and considering the potential candidates rumored to take over after Arsene Wenger, Emery was an extremely qualified candidate when he was appointed. With that said, Emery has had little effective success with his high pressing tactics in the past few months. Opposing teams ranging from Manchester City and Bate Borisov have managed to stymie the Gunners tactics, which found Emery without a correct response. Early on in the season Arsenal were known for struggling in the first half and came out with a response in the second on the way to a win. Arsenal have been unable to to find a response to lackluster first halves. It raises the question, as to whether the opposition have figured out Emery’s strategy, and is currently experiencing a struggle not too dissimilar to that of Sarri.
The Ozil situation has only exasperated the questions regarding Emery’s ability to lead Arsenal. Ozil has never been known as a player that can be played in a high pressing formation. When one couples that with the fact that English fans traditionally favor players that are more physically imposing, such as Alexis Sanchez, than “luxury players” that Ozil is considered to be. Regardless, Emery must firmly believe that even an Ozil that does not press and track is not worth all the creativity and attacking presence he provides for Aubameyang and Lacazette. Considering that he has recently employed the 3-4-3 formation, it is mildly disconcerting that he is not using a creative player like Ozil. Emery will have the opportunity during the summer to attempt to sell Ozil and bring in an attacking player that he favors. Yet, Ramsey will be leaving for free this summer, and he must be replaced. Guendouzi and Xhaka have not proven to be the true creative threat that Ramsey and Ozil are. It will be interesting to see if Emery can resolve this issue on top of finding new defensive reinforcements over the summer.
Heading into next season, Emery should find it all to do. If he is unable to qualify for Champions League this season, he would have found it difficult to recruit world class talent over the summer. Fans will lamenting another year in the Europa League and will be getting more anxious about not having won a trophy in a few years. Emery could be facing an increasingly impatient fan base and a squad that could be increasingly less optimistic about his tactics. Rumors have been surfacing that Lacazette may be a player that Arsenal could cash in on in the summer. If this occurs, Aubameyang could be less than enthused to have lost a close friend. Emery has not been able to effectively employ both attacking players together consistently. Emery’s most important challenge is to keep his current squad of players believing in his philosophy, which has become less like Wenger’s “beautiful football” as the season has gone on. It is especially crucial to ensure that players, which will be staying on next year are able to take in new talent with an atmosphere of positivity.
Unai Emery certainly came to Arsenal in attempt to reinvigorate his reputation after a underwhelming time with PSG. He may not be getting the financial support for transfers from executives that he had hoped for, but Arsenal should not be experiencing the struggles that they are currently enduring. He will have had a full season to develop the squad of players that were there when he was hired. In addition to any recruitments from the summer, Emery should at least be able to show more consistency defensively. Arsenal simply do not have the time to practice patience for too long. If they do, the club could find themselves further away from the top four than they currently are. Money does not appear to be flooding into the club and as such they cannot outspend their opponents. Rather the club need to out-smart them the best they can. Emery has not been able to find the success with the players that he currently has, and he cant rely on finding it with new recruitments. Arsenal may have to go back to the drawing board in their quest to not only finish in the top four, but also win the league.