Emery Needs Patience at Emirates

It was a summer of optimism for Arsenal fans and rightly so, with even the staunchest Wenger acolytes invigorated by the sweeping changes at the club that started with the recruitment of Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislinat and climaxed with the appointment of Unai Emery as their first new head coach in 22 years. Incoming players were a mix of Wenger favourites like the highly-rated French youngster Matteo Guendouzi (of which more later) and shrewd purchases in the squad's weak areas that had been overlooked in recent years, with experience at the back and a combative defensive midfielder in Lucas Torreira also joining. Missing out on a Champions League spot in consecutive years was the catalyst for change, but with a 12 point gap to fourth place last season Emery's task is little different to those attempting to bridge the gap to Manchester City at the top of the table, while contending with his first season in the Premier League at the same time.
 
Comparisons to the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea - the previous two title holders - were always likely to be unfavourable to Arsenal, especially with these fixtures coming in their opening two fixtures of the season, and while a no-point return is disappointing the same would no doubt have been expected with Wenger still at the helm. After all, the club's record against the other top six teams has been dire for some time, with Wenger's slow decline pockmarked by heavy defeats and poor performances home and away to other title challengers. Ships can't be turned so quickly, and Emery is still bailing out water from the previous regime with hallmarks of the old Arsenal - a soft underbelly, cheap goals - proving his undoing. Same old Arsenal perhaps, but what did we really expect?
 
As ever, pragmatism (and perhaps a pint of wine to wash it down) was the order of the day for the man surprisingly overlooked for the Arsenal job, one Sam Allardyce. Perturbed by the idea of playing out from the back against the high-pressing Manchester City frontline, Allardyce suggested in no uncertain terms that Emery should cut his cloth to measure. Emery however had other ideas and employed the same strategy against Chelsea, a game where the high defensive line more than the expansive playing style was exposed as a chink in the armour. Whether Arsenal should be lauded or castigated for sticking to the footballing principles that saw Manchester CIty canter to the league title last season depends on their success over more than two matches however, and unlike when Wenger failed to spot his own team's faults it is unlikely that the fastidious Spaniard tasked with replacing him will be quite so casual in his approach.
 
It is important to remember when judging Emery that Pep Guardiola received a similar welcome to England upon his arrival, with some pundits quick to jump on his failings in his maiden Premier League season. Likewise Jurgen Klopp had more than his fair share of underwhelming results when taking over from Brendan Rodgers at Anfield, but for both Manchester City and Liverpool their patience is bearing fruit now as the two favourites to clinch the league title. At the Emirates the seeds have finally been planted. For Arsenal and Emery now, trusting in this process and allowing the man tasked with making the club title contenders once again means giving him the chance to learn the league, and just as importantly the players at his disposal. Having hooked Granit Xhaka in the opening two games and keeping Guendouzi on the pitch already suggests he may be a quick learner. 
 
The last time a managerial dynasty came to an end in the Premier League Manchester United had finished the prior season as Premier League champions. Hindsight tells us that David Moyes was the wrong appointment at the time anyway, but despite finishing as runners up last season the turmoil at Old Trafford suggests the club have yet to find their way since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Should Mourinho depart before his newly extended contract expires it will be back to square one, with a fourth manager since Ferguson casting an eye over expensive acquisitions of his predecessors with plans to make his own mark on the team. Arsenal's situation is different given Wenger's consistency in achieving a Champions League place gave the club even less to demand from their new head coach, and yet should they fail in climbing back up the league table some would have the Emery experiment discarded. Arsenal can ill-afford to make the same mistakes as their Manchester rivals - now fifth-favourites to win this year - and others have proved that patience can pay dividends. For a coach like Emery judgements should be made after two seasons and not two games, and for a club in Arsenal's position the lessons of their rivals should be heeded.