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Why critics are wrong about Unai Emery and Arsenal

Saturday 18th August 2018

Unai Emery should have known the Arsenal job came with a high level of scrutiny. Arsene Wenger was subjected to perhaps more anger and vitriol than any other manager. Gooners want more and want it now. Arsenal Fan TV or not, they'll make their feelings known the instant results don't go as expected. But expecting Arsenal to beat Manchester City was always a huge ask.

Meeting the record-breaking defending champions on his Premier League debut was a baptism of fire for the Spanish manager. He knew that going in; over 10 previous meetings, Emery never bettered Pep Guardiola's team. 

Arsenal put up a good fight, losing on the day to a better side. I'd argue the Sky Blues play the best football England's seen, but Emery's team was by no means overrun.

Of course, critics won't have it. There's no place for second best these days. You either win or take the stick. Never mind another title contender, Chelsea, lost by the same margin to City a week earlier.

The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss was in a difficult position. Attack and be criticised for not fixing the defensive problems that have long dogged Arsenal. Set up defensively and be branded a coward for not standing by the club's philosophy. Only a win could save him.

It remains no surprise victory was beyond the Gunners' reach. Nor, I suppose, that Emery was roundly criticised. From former England manager, Sam Allardyce, to club legends and fans, it's been largely criticism. Ex-players Paul Merson and Tony Adams were the most vocal. There is nothing wrong with expressing opinions and concerns, but it's best to consider the facts.

Unai Emery was not given a war chest to rebuild the squad. Arsenal did not make the kind of signings that Liverpool and even Chelsea made this summer. Apart from Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and maybe Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, who are the superstars in this team?

The Arsenal community should be looking for positives and a way forward. They're easily found.

The performance against Manchester City showed Arsenal can take the game to their opponents. Under Guardiola, Manchester City have been known to dominate opponents. The Gunners were not dominated even though they conceded 58% possession. No side matched 42% possession against City in the Premier League last season. Not even Liverpool. The Reds managed 36% possession in City's 4-3 loss at Anfield. In their other loss, Manchester United won just 35% possession as they came back from 2-0 down at halftime to win 3-2.

Arsenal did enough on the day to show promise. Nine shots against City nearly double Man United's five last term.

It is often said that you don't judge a manager by one game. Unai Emery has won league and European titles with Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla. Despite losing 2-0 to City, Arsenal did enough to prove the team can challenge for the title or at least the top four. Even if they don't, critics should allow the team to die before attempting to bury it.

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance football journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.


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