A ten-game winning run? Years ago, that constituted chants of “We’re gonna win the league/cup” and excited chuntering about how great the team is/was/will be. Maybe that’s Arsène’s legacy? He dampened our expectations to such an extent that we no longer think we’re going to win a trophy until the yellow ribbons flutter in May.
Or more likely, we see how readily the defence is torn asunder in the opening thirty minutes. Wondering how we’ll fare against the top sides tends to dampen your trophy expectations. Then again, when you see how readily and easily United were torn apart, you wonder how we didn’t grab a top four place last season. I’ve just remembered our away form; maybe not.
I wondered recently if any top coach would make the same impact as Unai Emery on the club? Anyone whose methods are in stark contrast to those of his predecessor should see change. Wenger’s paternalistic approach is gone and a brutal reality faces the players. It took some getting used to, knowing that a place in the side was not a right anymore.
But Alex Iwobi noted the biggest change the Emery era brought: attitude.
He has just given me the confidence to express myself, to believe in my ability which I have been trying to show.
I am more confident. I feel that even if I make a mistake I am able to go again. That is the difference between me last year and this year.Alex Iwobi on Unai Emery’s impact
There is a world of difference between the Alex Iwobi of last season and this. Not just him, but the Nigerian is the best example of the positivity the change at the top brought to the squad or most of them at least.
In My Head, Son
Mesut Özil is finally coming to life under Emery. The summer was the perfect storm for him with the change of boss, international woes, and a back injury. The manifestation came in body language; he wasn’t happy and little wonder.
It’s to his credit that he came back relatively quickly. At his salary level, you expect that of a player. The first couple of international breaks this season were never going to be easy. If Germany performed brilliantly, it was Özil’s fault they failed in the summer. If they were successful, it was Özil’s fault; a genuine no-win situation.
Making him captain against Leicester was a surprise move from Emery. It crossed my mind that the Spaniard did it for psychological reasons. A boost for Özil’s confidence? Iwobi doesn’t think so. It was the ‘reward’ for his work on the training ground:
He gives me advice in a different way. He jokes around but always tells me I can do more. Even last night he was saying I do more – he is always one of those guys.
But is he always happy, always telling me and giving me the confidence to express myself.
Mesut will come across as laid back but he is helping everyone in a different way and helps me a lot.Alex Iwobi on Mesut Özil
Or more succinctly, Mesut Özil, senior pro in the squad taking on that responsibility. Emery’s response was to reward that with the armband.
I don’t think for one minute that it is a permanent move although it could be. Is there a talismanic element to it? You stay with the armband until we lose or
Granit Xhaka captained the side to victory but it wasn’t enough. Maybe the Switzerland international came back in a foul mood or his head wasn’t in the right place? The latter certainly seemed the case as he picked up a booking; Xhaka argued, niggled and generally moaned in midfield. He unleashed his inner Steve Willams before performing well at left-back.
It’s all good stuff. A positive vibe about the place. You know it will end when results go the wrong way, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
Liverpool looms in the background as part of another run of four consecutive home matches, with barely any breathing space between the trip to Vorskla and the North London derby.
A busy time of the season; a telling time of the season. Does Unai Emery have the answers? We shall find out.