Defensive woes, travel sickness and Ozil´s role - Emery´s Arsenal to-do list

23 mayo 2018 13:58

A significant section of Arsenal's fanbase have long been hungry for change and a fresh chapter in north London.

Arsene Wenger's poignant farewell after 22 years in charge at the end of this season was accompanied by a sixth-place finish and the failure to achieve Champions League qualification for the second year in succession.

Now, Unai Emery takes over. The Spaniard swept the board domestically at Paris Saint-Germain but his failure to mount a significant Champions League challenge left questions over his elite credentials.

Such concerns might quickly seem trivial when he takes charge of a new era at Arsenal, where he will find plenty of talent but, similarly, numerous problems to address.

A case for the defence

Many of Arsenal's woes over recent seasons have tended to centre around a flimsy backline given inadequate midfield protection. Laurent Koscielny makes more mistakes than is acceptable for a supposed defensive leader – the first leg of the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid being a case in point – and Shkodran Mustafi's deterioration has been, frankly, startling. A chunk of Emery's reported £50million transfer budget would be well spent on a centre-back.

Cure travel sickness

Nothing underlined Arsenal's brittle nature better than their terrible away form last season. A 1-0 loss to Stoke City, who went on to be relegated, and a 4-0 thrashing at Liverpool got things underway. The 4-2 defeat in the FA Cup to Championship side Nottingham Forest preceded a dismal run of seven consecutive Premier League losses on the road – a slump that extended until a 1-0 win at Huddersfield Town on the last day of the campaign. For a side aspiring to return to the Champions League, it represents an unacceptable return.

Get the best out of Mesut Ozil

Emery is fresh from two years at PSG, where coaxing the best out of exceptional talents and managing egos proved tricky at times. Ozil is a playmaker of unquestionably sublime gifts and his best performances generally coincide with Arsenal playing superbly. But he has, at times, become a sullen figure over recent seasons. Whenever things go wrong for the Gunners, plenty of fans and pundits are ready to declare it is the Germany star's fault. If Emery can harness Ozil's creative brilliance and leave the blame game behind, he will be well on the way to success at Arsenal.

Bring fresh ideas and tactical sharpness

Reports emerged towards the end of Wenger's tenure of an Arsenal dressing room lamenting the need for more help and guidance on the training field. They will not lack for that under Emery, who is famously meticulous in his attention to detail. Astute in-game tweaks - see the 2016 Europa League final turnaround against Liverpool - are also part of his repertoire. Given the overwhelming sense that the great Wenger had become set in his ways, Emery's challenge might be to avoid shocking the squad with too much change too soon.

Lacazette and Aubameyang – finding the best attacking formula

Even if Emery has limited spending power during his first close season at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal fans should not be able to complain about a lack of investment over the past year. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived in the last two transfer windows, both for hefty fees and each with deserved reputations for being among the most lethal strikers in Europe.

They were signings that represented ambition Arsenal have often been accused of lacking, if not entirely coherent thinking. Lacazette finished a mixed season strongly but missed out on a World Cup place with France, while January recruit Aubameyang fired 10 in 12 league starts. Will the ex-Borussia Dortmund man lead Emery's frontline alone, or can the new boss harness two prized assets in tandem?

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