Arsenal extended their winning streak to 10 games by overwhelming Leicester with an inspired second half performance on Monday night. The Gunners have been playing some glorious football and they could end up running their own Goal of the Season competition at this rate. Their third against the Foxes was another world class team goal, all clever flicks, rapid breaks and sumptuous dummies before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s simple tap in. The Unai Emery effect is taking hold and here are five ways the new manager has changed Arsenal for the better:
Moving the ball quicker
The speed of Arsenal’s passing has been impressive in recent weeks and their brand of football seems more direct under Emery. Arsene Wenger favoured a lot of possession and patient build-ups, but fans often grew frustrated by seeing the ball moved endlessly from side to side. Now the Gunners are breaking at lightning speed: Bernd Leno passed to Stephan Lichtsteiner on Monday night and then eight passes later the ball was in the back of the net. Arsenal have now won 10 games in a row for the first time since 2007. Incidentally, that year saw Cesc Fabregas in his pomp, when the young midfielder displayed great incision and forward momentum, and Arsenal look to have rediscovered that swagger. They are still massive underdogs to win the Premier League title: the Sporting Index lines have them below Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs for points, and spread betting is explained here, https://www.sportingindex.com/o/learn/training-centre/sports-spread-betting-the-basics. But write this Arsenal team off at your peril.
Arsenal have found themselves level at half-time in most of their games thus far this season, but they have not panicked. They have weathered an early storm on several occasions, waited for the opposition to tire and picked them off with second half salvos. The Gunners have been patient and then devastating in attack, while remaining relatively disciplined at the back. You could hail Emery’s half-time team talks as the catalyst for second-half victories, but a lot of it seems down to fitness. He must be working his players hard in training, because they look a lot sharper than their opponents towards the end of games. It is also great to see Emery so animated on the touchline, as that energy and passion is clearly rubbing off on his players.
Growing more clinical
Arsenal have dominated very few games this season, but they keep on winning and much of that is down to their clinical finishing. Aubameyang has scored four goals in his last 48 minutes on the pitch, for example. Efficiency in front of goal is one of the most important traits in a successful team and Arsenal are finally starting to display it. In Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, they are blessed with two in-form strikers, and if Mesut Ozil keeps playing like he did against Leicester they will be furnished with an abundance of chances. The German playmaker was electric in his preferred number 10 role and it seems hard to justify a return to the starting line-up for Aaron Ramsey, as Lucas Torreira has slotted in beautifully alongside an improving Granit Xhaka, providing a fantastic base from which Ozil can wreak havoc among opposition backlines.
Wenger would often wait until it was too late to make substitutions, but Emery is never afraid to mix it up. Several half-time subs have already been made, and he was bold in going three at the back so early against Leicester on Monday night. He sent on Aubameyang with 32 minutes remaining on the clock, and the Gabonese striker made all the difference. Arsenal have a pretty strong squad when it comes to attacking options, and being able to make early substitutions is a great luxury for a coach, so it is great to see how bold Emery has been in this department.
Hector Bellerin provided two assists in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Leicester and fellow full-back Nacho Monreal has been a potent weapon throughout the season too. Emery encourages both full-backs to push up, often in tandem, while Torreira is asked to remain disciplined and stay back to protect from any counter-attacks. It is a risky strategy, and the Gunners are often caught out, but it is hard to deny how effective the full-backs have been when Arsenal are in possession. Fans will just have to hope they are not ripped apart when facing top opponents, but the way the Gunners dealt with quick forwards like Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho in the second half of Monday night was impressive, and Torreira deserves great credit for his influence on the team.