The 2018/19 season will remain remarkable in the history of Arsenal football club, not because of the success they gained on the pitch, but mostly because it is the first time in over 20 years that they played under a new manager. Spaniard Unai Emery replaced Frenchman Arsene Wenger at the start of the season, marking a new era for a team which had shown potential, but never quite exploited it fully in the last decade.
First Season Effect
The first season for Emery does not look as though it will be trophy-laden. Having been kicked out of the Carabao and FA Cups, and falling out of the race for the domestic title, Emery remains with just the Europa League as a possible first trophy. The Spanish manager has been great in the competition, winning it thrice with Sevilla. Arsenal’s path remains open as they are drawn with Rennes in the next round of 16, so it remains a possibility.
What will, however, be most notable of Emery’s first season, is the speed and firmness of decisions, something which appeared to be lacking at the club in the sunset days of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Emery was confident in signing 34-year old Stephan Lichtsteiner and youngster Lucas Torreira even before his first match. He has allowed Aaron Ramsey to run down his contract and will be releasing him in the summer, despite many feeling that he has a lot more to offer. Mesut Ozil has been left on the bench several times despite being the highest paid player at Arsenal.
Such firmness and swiftness of decisions is new at the Emirates, and fans will be hoping it brings with it consistent performances which can bring them trophies.
On the downside, the club appears not to have achieved the financial muscle to compete with other top teams in the league. Emery is on record as saying he would have to make do with the players he has, as the club did not have money in the 2019 January transfer window.
Of course, that is not to say Arsenal could be in a position where they cannot buy playing shoes or equipment. Instead, they are not in a level to compete with the likes of Liverpool and the Manchester teams for top signings.
Unai’s consistency in the quest for a top-four finish, despite having an average squad, and his continued pressing for the Europa league, are two factors which have endeared him to the clubs hierarchy and fans, not to mention acting swiftly when old Monsieur Wenger would have dilly-dallied.
If he can use the same firmness in putting together a team of his own in the summer, he will have surely given the Arsenal faithful assurance that they can genuinely expect to dust off their trophy cabinets.