Arsenal have won nine consecutive matches in all competitions – their best run in more than three years.
So what has Unai Emery changed since taking over from Arsène Wenger in the summer?
Greater attention to detail
Towards the end of Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, a sense emerged that things were being done not necessarily because they were the most effective way, but because, well, that’s always how they had been done.
Emery has already shown that he is unafraid to make bold selection decisions. Arsene Wenger was reluctant to make substitutions before the 70th minute and rarely dropped his senior players, but Emery has changed the dynamic completely.
Mesut Ozil is the most high-profile example of the new policy in action. Wenger always defended the playmaker against criticism, but there has been no special treatment from Emery, who told him he needed to work harder after his subdued showing in the opening day defeat to Manchester City. “Defensive moments are for each and every player,” he said.
Ozil was then substituted in the 68th minute after another muted display against Chelsea, and he was not even in the squad when they faced West Ham. The official line was that he was unwell, but Emery’s early weeks in charge suggest there might have been more to it.
Ozil is not the only player to have felt Emery’s ruthlessness. Granit Xhaka started all but one of their Premier Leagues game under Wenger last season and was only substituted seven times in total, but he was hooked after 70 minutes against City and hauled off at half-time against Chelsea. Aaron Ramsey, meanwhile, was dropped to the bench at Stamford Bridge.
Emery’s disregard for reputation can be seen in his faith in youth, too. Teenaged midfielder Matteo Guendouzi was playing in France’s second tier last season but he earned praise for his performance against City and kept his place against Chelsea and West Ham, with Lucas Torreira forced to settle for a place among the substitutes.
Playing out from the back is the priority with the ball but it’s all about pressing without it. “He wants us to press and press really high up the pitch,” said Ramsey recently. “He demands a lot,” added Iwobi.
High-pressing tactics are nothing new to the Premier League, with Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino all employing them to good effect in recent seasons, but they were not used consistently by Wenger, whose Arsenal team was often accused of lacking structure and organisation out of possession.
“The coaches have different philosophies, they are completely different,” said Hector Bellerin in pre-season. “Arsene Wenger was a manager that left a lot of inspiration with the players. He gave you a lot of freedom and now Unai Emery is a bit more tactical, more organised on the pitch.”