Soccer / emery
It feels good to be an Arsenal fan again!!
I've been an Arsenal fan all my life. Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I've been shouting for my beloved Gunners. Like anything in life there have been ups and downs, highs and lows. When the highs are high, the lows are so far from your mind, that you almost forget that the trough will eventually come again. Then, conversely, when your club is struggling at a low point, you wonder if they'll ever reach their zenith again. You just need to take a look at Manchester United and how far they have fallen since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down to understand this. The same has been true of Arsenal in recent years. Groundhog Day Most of you have probably seen the classic Bill Murray movie groundhog day, where Bill has to relive a particular day over and over and over again, until things work out for him. We see Bill wake up in the morning time after time, and meet the same people and do the same things, with only slight variation, and suddenly it's back to him waking up again and restarting the same day. Well that is what it felt to be an Arsenal fan in the later Wenger years. It got to the point where us fans almost knew exactly how things were going to pan out. We would get off to a pretty slow start in the league, and fight back to be in a good position by Christmas. We'd finish second in our Champions League group and almost certainly be drawn against Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the second round. Things would start to look up a little up until February/March, when we would have a bad run of results in the league, get knocked out of the FA cup, get hammered in the Champions League first leg, needing a miracle in the second leg, which we would almost get and then fall agonisingly close to doing. Throw in a serious injury or six to some of our linchpin players! Not forgetting a side portion of transfer saga involving one of our best players, who would almost inevitably end up leaving the club. This groundhog day merry go round went on for season after season, from almost as far back as 2007. I see our Champions League final defeat to Barcelona as the point when things started to go downhill. Just look at the quality of the team we had in 2006. The new Emirates stadium and subsequent outstanding loan then stagnated my club for over a decade. The team below was slowly dismantled as top players were either sold or allowed to leave the club in order to cut the wage bill. Unai Emery - a ray of sunshine So that was how it felt for those lost years. It has only been six short months since Arsene Wenger left our club, but already the team looks to be transformed and re-energised. Don't get me wrong though, I loved Wenger and I fully appreciate everything he did for our club, both on and off the pitch. He changed the Premier League when he first came on the scene in those early Premier League years in 1996. He was and is a club legend and we all love him, but all good things come to an end, and it was time for him to go, and to be fair he should have gone about 2 years earlier. However, let's look at the glass as half full, because we would not have Emery at the helm if he had stepped down earlier, and I am more than happy with how Emery has conducted himself so far. After getting off to a stinker start back in August, with successive losses to Man City and Chelsea, the pressure was immediately ratcheted up on the Spaniard. How would he react? Could he handle the pressure of the new role, after all, Wenger's boots were big ones to fill. Well, he answered those questions emphatically, after navigating through September, October and November unbeaten in all competitions. It has to go down as one of the best starts to a managerial career in recent times? Many of his detractors would have seen the recent Liverpool or Spurs games, as the game where the run would grind to a halt. That didn't materialise. After finding themselves falling behind to a James Milner strike against the run of play, Arsenal did not panic. They stuck to their game plan and were justly rewarded with an equalising goal and a share of the points. Arsenal were very impressive against Spurs The North London derby had the potential to be a banana skin for our newly confident team, but again they overcame a tricky hurdle with aplomb. They dominated the early exchanges and were duly awarded with the opening goal after just ten minutes, when Aubameyang made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Lloris the wrong way with his penalty. Spurs to be fair to them, stuck to the task at hand, and were handed a lifeline in the 30th minute when some slack marking from a freekick allowed Eric Dier to ghost in at the front post. His glancing header was a good one, but, there was no way Leno should have been beaten at his near post, and that really is a worry. Right now, that is the position that worries me most in Emery's team. But, let's not dwell on the negative, although, four minutes later, things did get worse for Arsenal. Mike Dean awarded the second penalty of the half as Son was adjudged to have been fouled inside the box. Harry Kane made no mistake with the resultant penalty as he placed it low to Leno's right with his typical power and gusto. So, there we were, a goal behind having dominated our opposition. We had given Spurs a lifeline, and they certainly have the talent and footballers to take a strangle hold on the game. Emery's direction was to calm down, there were only 35 minutes gone after all, and they were only one goal down. Master Tactician Once again Emery pulled a master stroke, as he withdrew Iwobi and Mkhitaryan and brought on Ramsey and Lacazette for the second half. Most managers would wait until the 65th or 70th minute to make these changes, but not Emery, he knows what he wants and when. Ramsey put in a great shift as he ran between the lines, and it was him that set up two of Arsenal's second half goals, and Lacazette scored a goal as well. Those substitutions really were the midas touch. Arsenal went on to win the match in style, with a great 4-2 victory, which saw Lucas Torreira score his first goal for the Gunners, with a very well taken goal on 77 minutes. It was great to see the diminutive midfielder get his first goal for the club. He has been a revelation since arriving at the club, and is likely the first name on the team sheet these days. Big Test at Old Trafford Fast forward to this Wednesday and we have a huge away match with Man United at Old Trafford. Arguably, it is a great time to be playing United, as they have not been near their best of late. Mourinho will not be at all phased by Arsenal, as he has a very good record against the North Londoners, however, he will soon find out that a hungry Unai Emery is a different prospect than an aging Arsene Wenger, and I am really looking forward to this one. It will be intriguing to see just how attacking and aggressive Arsenal are here. Will they sit back and size up United first, or will they go straight at them hammer and thongs like they did against Spurs? Only time will tell, but it promises to be an interesting game. Here are Unai's thoughts on Wednesday nights game: "It will be a very big challenge for us on Wednesday and it will confirm our good moment, or whether we need more," "It is very difficult to win there because they are a very big team with big players and have a big atmosphere pushing them, but it is an exciting match and my motivation is very big." So, clear that diary for Wednesday night, crack a cold beer, and sit back and enjoy this one, as I can see a good game here, with a goals for both sides. Thanks as always for taking the time to read and comment. Peace Out.