On the eve of the new season, Unai Emery has reiterated his plan to get Arsenal playing in a more organised and aggressive fashion although he admits he’ll need time.
Having conceded 51 goals in Arsene Wenger’s final Premier League campaign, it’s no secret that the Gunners need to improve at the back.
The recruitment of a new keeper, Bernd Leno, experienced defenders, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sokratis and a specialist defensive midfielder, Lucas Torreira, has set the tone, but for Emery, it’s about instilling a collective attitude towards defending that starts with his attackers.
Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of Sunday’s opener with champions Manchester City, he outlined his philosophy.
“Our style with the ball is to be protagonists, to do things with combinations, to control the match with the positioning of the ball. And then when we have the space, to be aggressive going forward.
“Defensively: first it is to be organised, recover the ball quickly. But in these two moments in the match we need to work. To say it here is easier than doing it on the pitch. We also need time, but now I am happy because I think the players are improving.
“We need two things: quality players, which we have, and then organisation. Together I think we can improve, to win in our way. I repeat: organised, then play.”
He added: “When we are thinking in an attacking moment, I want the goalkeeper thinking for that, he is the first. The same when we are thinking defensively, I want our strikers to be thinking: ‘We need to protect the goalkeepers’. I want those two moments to feel the same for all players.
“Each player has this quality, this characteristic to help the team as a collective. For me, that is very important.”
Much like the man he replaced, Emery’s desire is to deliver entertaining victories. When he arrived in May, he declared, “I prefer to win 5-4 than win 1-0.” For all the emphasis on organisation and defence, a narrative the club have been happy to back across their media channels, it seems unlikely we’ll be returning to uber-discipline of the George Graham era.
More than anything, Emery wants everybody to enjoy themselves. “I want the players and supporters to feel that together, and also enjoy each match, each moment in our stadium, and in this way the team transmits to the supporters the passion.
“Success is to improve, grow up, build one team with personality, and then I want to win. I want to do it one way with this personality, enjoying with our supporters. We are looking in this way, one team with a passion, with a quality, organised, and in this way we are near to winning in the future.”
It’s over to him now…let’s see what happens.