Nobody can dispute the role of Arsene Wenger in Arsenal’s rise through the Premier League ranks to the very top at one point. However, there is also no escaping the fact that the last few seasons of the Frenchman’s reign yielded underwhelming results. For all his greatness, the need for a change became painfully obvious.
What Unai Emery did in his first season at the club can hardly be described as an improvement, at least in terms of the final tally. Another failure to reach the Champions League; a slip on the last step in the Europa League and the last chance of a trophy gone beyond recall.
Naturally, it’s extremely unfair to judge a manager on the back of a single season, especially if it follows 22 years of another man’s imprint which eventually became damaging. Transition is probably a word no fan of any club likes to hear, but it was needed badly, and there can be no doubt that the hierarchy and the manager are conducting one.
Emery was granted a few players of his own at the start of his rule, but there was still a lot he needed to change, to adapt, to spur forward. This summer’s window, though initially announced in such a way that it caused most of the fanbase to groan in dismay, has turned out far better than anyone outside the club had expected. Of course, it will still take time for the new members of the team to blend in in a way that would “help the team”, as Emery likes to say, and it is to be hoped that it won’t take too long.
That aside for just a moment, the fight for points has begun, and the only aim in the first round, the trip to Newcastle, was to get three in any way possible. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal’s top scorer, duly delivered the thing without which you cannot win a game – a goal, while the defence managed to equal last season’s number of clean sheets away from home already.
A great start and a big hope for a different end to the season, but the only difference between the last one and this one that will certainly exist come May 2020, is that judging the work of Unai Emery and those above him will make much more sense this time around.