Does Unai Emery deserve more recognition for Arsenal's season so far?  

Unai Emery arrived at Arsenal in May 2018 as the “unanimous” choice made by the club’s hierarchy in succeeding Arsene Wenger, after 22 years at the helm. 

In his first season at the club, the Gunners would miss out on Champions League football for the third consecutive season by a single point to their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur before being beaten in the Europa League Final in Baku at the hands of Chelsea.

The Europa League final proved to be a turning point for the American owners in the way they run the club. Emery and the Arsenal board worked wonders in the transfers, bringing in Gabriel Martinelli, Dani Ceballos, William Saliba, Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz as they addressed key areas on the pitch while looking to build for the future.

The North-London club were aggressive,  with Josh Kroenke arguing that “when Arsenal Football Club knocks on a player's door it's a different knock.”

He was true to his word in the end.

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Raising younger players

Amongst all the summer incomings were a number of outgoings involving first team players such as Alex Iwobi, which opened opportunities for the club's young stars at the academy.

This season has seen the rise of Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and most notably Bukayo Saka, who made the biggest breakthrough with an outstanding performance in the opening group game in the Europa League against Frankfurt. Saka got on the scoresheet with an overall strong performance and has become one of the first players to be on the team sheet since.

Speaking in a broadcast interview on ITV, Arsenal Academy manager Per Mertesacker revealed Saka is tipped to be the next Arsenal and England star.

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Emery at the heart of Arsenal's youthful core 

Elsewhere, the impact of Willock and Nelson shouldn't be ignored, with the duo showing glimpses of their talent. Both players had opportunities to play in Premier League games and have gained great recognitions for their performances alongside Emile Smith-Rowe.

Arsenal’s main man in midfield is Matteo Guendouzi who has been pulling the strings in Arsenal’s midfield. The Frenchman himself pinpointed Emery as the key reason for his development and rise to centre stage this season, with his combative style reminiscent to Cesc Fabregas, whose game developed greatly under Wenger's tutelage.

In addition, 18-year old Gabriel Martinelli has made an instant impact with four goals to his name after braces against Nottingham Forest and Standard Liege

With Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles,  Callum Chambers and co. all experienced within the first-team, it is a hugely exciting time in the Emery era given the flourishing young talent at the club's core.

The manager's experience of developing young players during his time at Sevilla, where unproven talent was nurtured into a trophy winning outfit, will see Emery maintain a strong part in the development of Arsenal's youngsters. 

Likewise, his time at Valencia saw him help in. the development of players such as David Villa, David Silva, Juan Mata and Ever Banega, showing his class as a manager and proven capabilities.

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Experience of winning trophies

It is hard to replace a man like Arsene Wenger who created his own image and culture at Arsenal.

But when Emery was appointed, he came with pedigree having achieved plenty of success in his managerial career, particularly at Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain.

The transitional phrase after Wenger’s departure was of huge significance for the Arsenal hierarchy who faced an uphill battle to put the club back into challenging for the Premier League title in the near future. Therefore, having a manager with the experience of winning domestic trophies, knowing the demands and mental fortitude required, is a huge bonus. 

Emery’s first successes of winning silverware was the Europa League in 2014 with Sevilla, defeating Benfica on penalties while guiding the club to 5th place in La Liga. This was followed by further two Europa League success in 2015 and 2016, beating Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Liverpool before moving to PSG.

He spent two seasons at PSG, where he won the Ligue 1 title in 2018 followed by multiple success in the domestic cups six times including Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophée des Champions twice.

Emery is still young; he still has plenty of years in football management ahead of him where he has the chance to bring his own innovative ideas and methods into place just like how Wenger did in his early years at Arsenal.

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Emery's style of play

One element aspect that's perhaps not so assured as yet is Emery’s playing style.  The Spaniard is known for his drills and  discipline in training, but has yet to rectify Arsenal's notable defensive woes. Finding  his own style and imprinting it on the side is the next step.

Ideally, Emery must stick with a consistent formation with this squad of players rather than the current chopping and changing of. shape. For example, last season saw Emery select a classic 4-4-2 formation against Manchester City at the Etihad before using 3-4-3 against Huddersfield followed by a 4-2-3-1 shape against Southampton and a 3-4-2-1 against Bournemouth

From a player perspective, consistency is key and while it's important to show tactical nous against specific opposition, Emery must identify the best way forward to enable his players to bed into the system and style of play he wishes to implement. 

What's essential is that the players and the club continue to back Emery, giving him sufficient time to come good and deliver an identity and style of play whereby Arsenal can achieve their ultimate goals. At present, the club's third place position in the table is more than healthy and deserves huge praise, offering hopes of a return to the  Champions League next season.

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