Tuesday 16 July 2019

Emery takes Klopp inspiration - Arsenal boss using Liverpool as a template to become a European heavy-hitter

 

Arsenal boss Unai Emery during a press conference at The Olympic Stadium, Baku. Photo: UEFA via Getty Images/PA Wire
Arsenal boss Unai Emery during a press conference at The Olympic Stadium, Baku. Photo: UEFA via Getty Images/PA Wire

Sam Dean

Unai Emery's blueprint for returning Arsenal to the upper echelons of British and European football is centred on rediscovering the fighting spirit and competitiveness that he believes was lost in the final years of Arsene Wenger's reign.

Emery, whose first season finishes with a Europa League final against Chelsea tonight (8.0), has spoken about the change of "character" and "personality" that was needed at the club after their decline under Wenger.

In his most in-depth and insightful interview since his arrival in north London a year ago, Emery discussed in detail the progress Arsenal have made in his first season and declared that he is using Liverpool's progression from Europa League finalists into one of the continent's most formidable clubs as inspiration.

Jurgen Klopp's side were in the same position in 2016 as Arsenal are now, relying on victory in the Europa League final to secure a place in the Champions League. Liverpool were defeated by Emery's Sevilla then, but have since developed into European heavyweights.

Away from the cameras and the formality of a press conference, Emery was a man transformed as he explained the challenges he faced upon his arrival and the "conflict" he has deliberately tried to create with his players.

Sitting in a small room at their London Colney headquarters ahead of what is arguably the club's most important match in a decade, Emery also suggested that his time at Arsenal will last no longer than three or four years because of his intensive style of management.

"When I arrived here, we changed some things," Emery says.

"Before Arsene Wenger, Arsenal was very competitive.

"With Wenger, it was very competitive and also he gave the team quality players, with a competitive spirit, who created the best moments in Arsenal.

'But in the last years they lost being competitive, keeping only the quality.

"I learnt with other coaches, and also listening and watching, that here you need to be competitive with physical players and quality players. You need both. So my idea is to share the two, to create a team with both."

"Above all, the idea is to be competitive (again) and we are doing this, getting competitive little by little with this team. We need more, yes. We can't do it all in one year. But we have reduced the distance, we have started to compete with some other teams."

Emery's brief, then, has essentially been to toughen up Arsenal. A lack of fighting spirit has been an accusation made against the side for years, and it was an argument with which Arsenal's hierarchy clearly agreed.

"This was the first information I received when I arrived here," Emery says. "The team is, step by step, showing more character."

There have been obvious signs of progress, particularly in matches against the bigger sides, but their ambitions of finishing in the top four were ultimately held back by a festering softness at the back.

Arsenal's fifth-place finish means that tonight's final is their last chance to reach next season's Champions League which would be vital for the club's finances and their future, providing a platform from which they can, Emery hopes, build like Liverpool.

Lose, and there is a very real danger of Arsenal being unable to keep up with their ever-more wealthy rivals.

"Three years ago Liverpool played the final against Sevilla and they lost," Emery says. "And they lost the possibility to play in the Champions League through the Premier League. Three years ago they were behind Arsenal. Now they are in front of us, and there is a big difference."

In his pre-match press conference, Emery spoke of his desire to ensure Arsenal are one of the "top 10" teams in the world. Do not expect him to hang around for too long, though.

"As a coach I feel my work is very difficult," he says. "I finished after four years in Valencia and Sevilla. The energy is very important. You need to use your energy 100 per cent. To do that for two or three years with the same players is very difficult."

The example he cites is Antonio Conte at Chelsea.

"Two years ago he won the Premier League, and then last season he had a problem here. Why? Because he..." Emery lets his hands finish the sentence, smashing his fists together with a thump.

This is the "conflict" of which he speaks, the need to push players to perform at their best. It is relevant to his high-intensity approach, and while he does not name names, the obvious player that springs to mind is Mesut Ozil. The German has had some excellent performances, but has yet to produce his best under Emery.

The same cannot be said for Aaron Ramsey, whose dynamism will be sorely missed against Chelsea and also next season, when he will be at Juventus.

Emery certainly needs time, and a transfer window or two, to make this his Arsenal. That said, it may feel different next year when Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck have departed. Arsenal like to share team-talks around the players and staff, and those who are leaving will contribute in Baku as the past gives way to the future.

"For the final we want to do something important with some players: Cech, Welbeck, Ramsey," Emery says. "We want to touch something emotional for this match." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Arsenal v Chelsea, Live, Virgin Two/BT Sport 2, 8.0

Telegraph.co.uk

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