There’s a freshness around the place which is attributed to Unai Emery and not weekly bath night. Not for the Spaniard a tin bath filled with scaldingly hot water and metal heated by the flames of the coal fire. So basically, if the metal didn’t get you, the water did. A generation of par-boiled children were ready for the week ahead.
Emery’s way, which sounds like a 1970s comedy pastiche of a period drama, is more sophisticated. No sugar, eat healthily and all good things come to those who work hard. And everyone says Emery works hard. Not for him a quick game of Bejewelled on a flight back from a Europa League match. No, he rewatches the game and analyses it, according to the Dynamic Duo. They are impressed with his work-rate.
But to Emery, this is normal. Preparation is the mother of necessity, especially for the Arsenal he inherited.
Before Wenger, Arsenal celebrated the 1-0 and it was based on defensive solidity. With Arsene the joy was in attack, with high quality players. The perfect combination was the Invincibles, but over time only technical quality and offensive freedom were taken care of, losing the defensive structure. What I want is to unite both essences and be more competitive. Arsenal was in decline, we had to stop it and start climbing.Unai Emery on Arsenal as he saw them
That last sentence is a fairly damning assessment of the club. In fact, the whole answer is. And accurate. As he says later in the interview, although we are yet to beat one of the top six – although we have the opportunity for three such victories in the next month – we are now winning away from home.
Aesthetics and Pragmatism
Emery makes a interesting comparison between himself and Arsène.
When I left Valencia I told the president I was more an analyst of coaches than an analyst of players. I don’t have time to watch players. I am more tactical. Wenger was, for example, someone who saw more pure football, much more of the player.
The idealist and the pragmatist. We all knew that because Arsène revelled in the aesthetics. Not for him winning ugly; as he famously said, not only do Arsenal have to win, we have to win the right way. Meanwhile, football progressed pragmatically.
I think Arsène tried to be pragmatic last season but by then it was too late. It wasn’t natural to him nor the players. He still, however, targetted training to our own strengths rather than that of the opposition and how to stop them. It’s a fundamental reason why we were undone so frequently by the same situations.
Emery is harder to please as a coach. Asked about the sixteen-match unbeaten run, he replied:
That we’ve got a lot left. We’ve had four draws in our last five games and we need to give the team a push now. I’ve spoken with my team during the international break. Our goal is finish in the top four but it’s not easy. It’s harder and harder to get there. Against Liverpool everyone was happy but we only drew. That’s not sufficient.
There’s no complacency. He could have celebrated what is a strong run but instead focused on four draws in five and not taking three points off Liverpool. Players may be off with their respective countries but there is no sense of Emery taking it easy during the past fortnight.
Where next though for the Emery journey?
Back To Reality
Vinai Venkatesham made it clear in a recent interview that financially, the Champions League absence is hurting the club. In a quickly corrected lapse of honesty, he admitted it was damaging the business model. Not sinking it completely but certainly making it tough to be self-sufficient and successful.
That is Unai Emery’s immediate target. Back into the top four as a stepping stone to pushing for the title. Whether the latter will happen, I don’t know. Unless significant funds are found, we’re relying on Diamond Eyes digging out more Guendouzis. That’s a tall order, it genuinely is. To consistently find young gems, especially in this ultra-competitive era for young players, is a tough job. And a lot tougher than just pitching up at Dortmund and taking out-of-favour midfielders.
Finally today, holiday greetings to those on the other side of the pond. Have a good Thanksgiving today and a great weekend.