For fans on the red side of North London, it has now been over a year since we said au revoir to Arsene Wenger and Hola to Unai Emery. I was actually born before Arsene actually took the manager reigns of a club, I had come to love so much. All I have known pretty much is the famous Wengerball. The class of possession, one-twos and great counter attacks. No matter what anyone else says I am glad he was part of the club after everything he has done. Watching the new transition of Arsenal for a fan who has known only one manager is hard, it’s like moving house or changing schools. Everything is different now and you have to adjust.
When Unai Emery came in I was surprised, not because we didn’t get the favourite for the job; or our options, but because for me, there was more trust an older manager that knew a few things about the premier league. For me; and this was my personal choice, I would have chosen Carlo Ancelotti. Instead we have got a manager who has won Europa League titles with Seville and also managed the ever spending Paris Saint-Germain and that was enough to convince me to give him time. It was obvious that the team was going to need to be rebuilt and you could say that Unai with the help from Sven (who sadly left in February this year) and others we managed to get players that have done well for their first season.
Where to start but the spine of any team? A keeper we needed someone who could adapt to any style of play our manager wanted whether it was playing from the back or playing long balls and was a strong shot stopper. In came Berd Leno, the keeper of Bayern Leverkusen throughout the season he looked like he was a great buy and when his chance came he did not disappoint. You could argue the days of Manuel Almunia and Lukas Fabianski were behind us.
Then there was a defence with our own BFG deciding to retire, we needed someone who could help us out. Step in Papa Sokratis, who most fans scoffed at complaining that he might be too slow before he’d even kicked a ball. For myself I was delighted he reminds me of the defenders of old Adams, Keown and Campbell; who’d get stuck in and in today’s terms was a ‘hardman’. The memory of the famous image in the North London Derby at the emirates with him standing up and waving to the players while Kane is on the floor looking devastated will be one for the ages. However, we also had signed Stefan Lichstiener on and for whatever reason, he just didn’t seem to click, especially with our troubles at right back to come later in the season. I was also glad to have him in the squad for the experience but honestly thought that he would at least challenge Hector Bellerin for the spot.
We then went out to buy Matteo Guendouzi a young player center midfielder from Lorient. And many believed would be playing most of his minutes in the under 23 side to prepare himself for the adjustment from Ligue 2. However he has taken to playing in the English top flight like a duck to water and although he had up and downs in performances he will be more prepared this time around. Something that Lucas Torriera will take on board after arriving from Sampdoria. During the World Cup many saw this man as our new Vieira and couldn’t wait to see what he was capable of. To me and many others we looked like we had found a player that was very similar to our partnership of Gilberto and Vieira. Finally a defensive midfielder we needed for so long had come to the club.
With all these signings, it looked like the Gunners had done some great business and were ready to start the season. It was difficult to take that our first two games were so cruel. Like the new season coming we played some of our rivals in back to back fixtures. The frustration along with people not caring about trying to play in Europe on Thursdays also wasn’t helped. Which some people point to as why we finished as we did. I draw it down to experience this team will learn from its mistakes.
As to looking at him from the touchline and his decisions I think we have found something different compared to what we had during the last few years with Arsene. A manager that was willing to show passion and desire to get off his seat and give some instructions when needed to. Although he may put up with things off and on the pitch. There is calls for his sacking, for me this is a new chapter in the Arsenal book. I try my best to support the manager as best I can and from my point of view, Unai’s main job to coach Arsenal into a new era could’ve been much worse. Yes there was some disappointment of knock-out football in the league cup and FA Cup. But the plan was there from the start, get back to the promise land of Champions League football. And we may have failed in the league and eventually the Europa League final but I see this as progress for the new campaign ahead. Whoever, Unai and the rest decide to buy this summer I hope that they can push this team to go even further and by this time next year we will be singing that we are the champions. That will be Unai’s greatest task for the season. And I can’t wait.
GT would like to thank Matt Lorrimer-Roberts for this personal guest post and if you enjoyed it, which we did you can follow him on Twitter @MattLR28