What must be Unai Emery's priorities at Arsenal?
The hiring of Unai Emery as Arsene Wenger's replacement could signal a major change in strategy at The Emirates stadium.
If the last ten years are the barometer, taking charge in North London isn't exactly a bad of roses... In fact, the managerial seat at Arsenal comes with pressure aplenty. Emery must hit the ground running, his new employers will be expecting that. To achieve success, he's going to need time as there is probably too much work to do in one summer. Making a list of priorities is key. This is where the Spaniard should start.
Strengthening the squad:
Cast your mind back to Wenger's early years at the club. Arsenal would blow away the opposition in the Premier League with their free-flowing, easy on the eye brand of football. Arsenal dominated the 2003/04 season. That year will forever live long as 'The Invincibles' were born. Nobody has managed to repeat that feat since.
However, Arsenal's story is now an entirely different one. Before Wenger's exit, the club was moving from bad to worse. This year, they only won a game away from home. With the immense talent-pool they have on their books, that's staggeringly bad. The defence was non-existent at times, whereas the midfield lacks any real energy and creativity. With the attackers they have available, we certainly should expect more from them in an offensive capacity as well.
Arsenal looked lifeless. It's Emery's job to reinvigorate the players he has at his disposal, while also bringing in new talents. With a change in tactics, we should expect a relatively large overhaul. Transfers are already being made, money is being spent.
Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have both been purchased to add both strength and experience to the weak, inconsistent and inexperienced back-line. The Swiss full-back brings some veteran leadership, that, for all his talents, Hector Bellerin just doesn't have. Papastathopoulos should walk into the starting line-up, displacing the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi.
Lucas Torreira is another new acquisition. He's been brought in to bring that bite to the midfield. During last season's Serie A, there was just one player that had won more challenges in the middle third. The Uruguayan made a mightily impressive 356 tackles since the start of 2016/17; the most in Italian football.
Torreira posses the quality that Arsenal needs in midfield. He is a workaholic that enjoys doing the dirty jobs. The 22-year-old's ball-winning ability can be compared with the best. It's early days, but The Gunners could have found their N'Golo Kante.
Petr Cech was arguably Arsenal's main problem. His decline and mistakes have been extremely costly. However, Emery is doing his utmost to change that with a move for Bernd Leno in the offing. The German is cool, calm and composed. At 26, his best years are still to come.
The club has also taken a big step towards success by renewing Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka’s contracts. Alongside the new acquisitions, Emery's Arsenal will be a delight to watch, while also proving to be a handful for any opponent. Don't be surprised if Emery's soldiers surprisingly take the Premier League by storm next season; mirroring Antonio Conte's first year at Arsenal.
This must be Emery's top-most priority. The FA Cup and Carabao Cup present excellent opportunities for any top-six side. There is also the Europa League, and no doubt Arsenal will be up there amongst the favourites to win it.
While some managers are drillmasters for accomplished talents, some are only good at managing average players; Emery is the perfect example of this. With no star player like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar, he fired Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles. Although his struggles at big-spending PSG were evident, Arsenal are seemingly the perfect balance of his two previous employers.
Getting that first piece of silverware under your belt is crucial for any manager at a new club. Emery's fresh ideas and tactics will no doubt have a huge positive impact on Arsenal. Heck, I certainly won't be betting against the Europa League master to win it for a fourth time in six seasons...