Seven wins on the trot: How have Arsenal improved under Unai Emery?

Unai Emery of Arsenal

After a rough start to the Premier League season, Arsenal look to be thriving under new gaffer Unai Emery with a 2-0 win over Watford at the weekend.

The early stages of the campaign seemed rocky for the Gunners as they were given the tough tasks of facing defending champions Manchester City and perennial contenders Chelsea. Those matches ended up in defeats and resulted in many pushing the panic button on Arsenal’s season.

Fortunately for the Gunners’ supporters, their Spanish coach was able to help the team turn things around instantly and they have rebounded from those back-to-back losses to win seven straight games across all competitions. Things are certainly back on track at the Emirates.

As they now find themselves fifth in the table only four points behind current leaders City, the team’s progress has been slowly realised and the Gunners may be ready to challenge the top teams. So, what has changed post-Arsene Wenger era at the London club?

INSTILLING DISCIPLINE

One of the biggest areas where Emery has advanced the team is in the midfield where his efforts to improve the squad’s discipline has been the main priority.

In previous years, the Gunners’ midfield was often pushed too high up the pitch that it resulted in them being vulnerable to counter attacks as they created too much space for them to effectively cover.

This year, the team looks more committed to their role sticking to Emery’s instructions and therefore giving their opponents fewer chances to catch them out of position. Furthermore, the arrival of Lucas Torreira has given the midfield a player who knows how to win the ball in key areas and has a good vision to make key passes on either half on the pitch.

IMPROVING PLAYERS

Outside of ensuring that the team’s philosophy is executed, Emery’s tactics has certainly rubbed off on the players as there have been a number of Gunners who have improved drastically.

An example is Granit Xhaka who was error-prone in previous seasons but now looks more comfortable with Emery’s tactics as well as improving physically to be able to withstand the wear and tear in the Premier League.

Hector Bellerin is another player who started slowly in the season but seems to have picked up on his coach’s teachings. He would often be found out in previous campaigns, even early this season, but in their stretch of wins, the Spaniard has vastly improved his marking and tackling. He has also made good runs forward as Emery seemingly adjusted the team’s formation to increase his effectiveness.

COMPOSURE IN LATE STRETCHES

Despite an impressive seven-game winning streak, the Gunners are still far from perfect and some of their games still show stretches where they leave much to be desired.

However, it is difficult to overlook the wins they mustered through that stretch which also points at improvement. The season is only in the early stages and it will be difficult to expect a finished product, but there certainly are many positives on the Gunners’ style of play so far.

The perfect example was their last match against Watford. The Gunners were only able to get a winner in the last 10 minutes thanks to an own goal but kept applying the pressure for Mesut Ozil to double the lead two minutes later.

Arsenal seemingly now understand that not every win should be dominating and pretty, but winning when it matters does the trick just the same.

Veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech summed it up in a recent interview: “What we lacked in the past – I would say the ‘Arsenal way’ was more important than getting the points sometimes, and this is not how you win the league. Sometimes you need to make sure you win an ugly game when you are not playing completely well but you just dig deep, close the back door and win 1-0 no matter how,” the four-time Premier League champion with Chelsea said.

“I think this is what we lacked over the last three years since I arrived (in 2015). Against Everton (on September 23), we went through difficult moments in the game but we managed to get the win and with the clean sheet, so this is very positive,” the Czech custodian said.

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