After Arsène Wenger’s departure, Spanish manager Unai Emery took charge of the club. As I wrote in a previous post, ‘big shoes where to fill at the Emirates’. To take over from the club’s most successful ever manager is not a task everyone would be capable of doing. If Unai Emery is capable of doing so remains to be seen. His first month however, has shown a lot of change already.
In terms of the first team squad, Santi Cazorla and Joel Campbell saw their contracts expire and have left the club. Yesterday it was officially confirmed that Jack Wilshere is also not signing a new deal. It is reported that Arsenal wanted to keep him around, but he did not want to agree a pay-cut and wanted promises regarding playing time. Unai Emery apparently has told him that he was not going to be a first-team regular next season. With that in mind, both parties agreed to go their separate ways. As Jack Wilshere was a real fan favourite he will be missed. It’s in his own career’s best interests to leave though as he should be playing at his age.
Lichtsteiner joined Arsenal on one-year deal
Regarding players coming in, Emery has already shown his hand too. The new manager has addressed a number of problem areas in our squad immediately. He has added Stephan Lichtsteiner to our defence. The 34-year-old right back is not a long-term signing considering his age obviously but his experience can be of great value to our vulnerable defence. The Swiss international was given a one-year deal so if things should not work out well it’s not a big risk we’re taking.
Bernd Leno to compete with Cech and Ospina
Yesterday was also the day that the signing of goalkeeper Bernd Leno was confirmed. The 26-year-old German joins from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. It will be interesting to see what his place in the pecking order will be compared to Petr Cech and David Ospina. It seems very unlikely that both Cech and Ospina will remain with the first team next season. Cech was recently given the number 1 jersey and will be expecting to play. But Bernd Leno was signed for the first team I suppose. Meanwhile, Ospina won’t settle for moving from second to third choice goalkeeper I think. That will be an interesting story to keep an eye on.
Sokratis and Torreira signings are expected
There are more players coming in as well. It is not officially confirmed at the time I am writing this but it is widely expected that Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Sampdoria midfielder Lucas Torreira are to be announced early next month. These signings could explain the fact that Jack Wilshere’s contract was not extended and could leave Shkodran Mustafi worrying for his spot in the first team. It would also mean a good option for the gap Koscielny will leave while being absent with injury until at least early next year.
Emery addressing the weak spots immediately
Although these transfers in and out will have a big effect on the first team I think they are correct choices to make so far. That our defence needed improving was not exactly a secret. The addition of Sokratis and Lichtsteiner to the back line, Torreira in front of that and Leno on goal would all make sense considering that is our weakest spot. We have some world-class options up front.
Changes in the backroom staff
Finally, at staff level there are quite some changes as well. In the Wenger-era Arsenal’s physio team were often subject to a lot of criticism. We had an important player out for most of the season pretty much every year, and a lot of situations where injuries kept dragging on. Abou Diaby is maybe the most unfortunate example of that, although it would be unfair to totally blame the medical team for his injury record. The complete list of departing staff is as follows: Neil Banfield, Tony Colbert, Jens Lehmann, Gerry Peyton and Boro Primorac (all were first team coaches), Colin Lewin, Ben Ashworth and Andy Rolls and Dr Philippe Boixel (they were part of the medical team) and finally Paul Johnson, who was Travel Manager. Unai Emery has brought in a number of people too. The first team staff now consists of the following people: assistant managers: Juan Carlos Carcedo and Steve Bould; first team coach: Pablo Villanueva; Director of High Performance: Darren Burgess; fitness coach: Julen Masach; goalkeeper coaches: Javi Garcia and Sal Bibbo and finally Victor Manas in the role of Data/Video Analyst.
How things will pan out will remain to be seen over the course of the coming season. But there’s no hiding to the fact that a new era is upon us and Emery is modifying the club to his wishes. Let’s all hope it’s for the better, and we have a wonderful season ahead of us. Come on Arsenal!