Arsenal currently sit in the top four after six successive Premier League wins. It’s a fantastic turnaround after a difficult start to life at the club for new boss Unai Emery.
Now he’s won a few games though, everything looks brighter and we can reveal that this good run is driven by the significant changes the the Spaniard has put in place since his arrival in May.
Here’s a look behind the scenes and what he’s done and how he’s doing it. It’s a quiet revolution.
‘Viva la revolución’, as he might say himself if he were speaking in Spanish, or ‘Good afternoon. The revolution is one process for us’, if he were using his increasingly improved English.
The training sessions are far more intense since Emery took over. He’s changed the times, often bringing in players in the afternoon, as well as training at the Emirates Stadium the day before games, not to mention a surprise midnight training excursion which involved team building and bonding exercises.
The free kick mannequins are 6 inches higher than the old ones, forcing greater precision from set-piece takers, and he insists on using players first names when addressing them rather than their nicknames as he feels this shows respect.
One player was given a dressing down when he was overheard called the new boss ‘One eye’ during the summer tour to Singapore, and Emery has asked that the players call him ‘Chief’ as he feels many of them can’t pronounce the Spanish for ‘gaffer’ – which is ‘jefe’ – correctly.
All men are created equal
The former Sevilla, Valencia and PSG boss is keen to ensure that he cultivates a competitive environment, and nobody is given any special treatment. Mesut Ozil has been used in far flung Europa League games, something which didn’t happen before, and he’s no respecter of reputations when it comes to substitutes.
Big names like Aaron Ramsey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Granit Xhaka have all been hauled off by the 46 year old as he attempts to change the complexion of a match, while the inclusion of Matteo Guendouzi early in the campaign was an indication that he’s willing to give youth its head.
The Spaniard has used different formations, trusting that his players will understand the difference between them as many of them play Championship Manager 01-02. He’s even paid attention to what the opposition do which sets him apart from the previous regime.
Arsene Wenger, his predecessor, was famously so focused on getting his team to play his way that sometimes he didn’t even know who they were playing until he came out of the tunnel and saw the opposition manager.
‘Oh no, not Tony Pulis!’ he exclaimed one day, according to an ex-players autobiography written by a journalist, and players felt that at times they could have done with more specific instructions with regards particular opposition.
That’s all changed under Emery and he has a fixture list in his filofax, and he makes a point of telling the team who they’re playing in the build-up to each game.
No juice for you
In a bid to ensure his players don’t get crazy with sugar, and to downplay their chances of getting type 4 diabetes, Emery has banned fruit juices from the training ground. In time this will be seen as a move as forward thinking as when Wenger banned fish, chips and sixteen pints on a Tuesday afternoon.
Having brought both a dietician and a hydrologist with him as part of his backroom staff, he’s also insisted on the players taking supplements and the Gunners are the first team in the world to give their players powdered water.
Up to 10 sachets are consumed each day by each player, mixed with tap water they become reconstituted beverages packed full of electrolytes, fluidilium and vitaminerals – a recently discovered hybrid or vitamins and minerals which can prolong endurance by up to 0.45% over the course of a game, a marginal gain that could be the difference between success and failure in an ever more competitive Premier League.
A fine mess
In an increasingly cashless society Emery has insisted that all fines be paid electronically from now on. Gone are the days of Per Mertesacker shaking an actual jar full of small change and in has come a number of contactless payment scanners. These have been stationed not just in the dressing rooms, but also in the dugouts at the Emirates and on assorted trees near the training pitches.
Given the youthful nature of the squad and the fact everyone has a smart phone, they can use Apple Pay or Android Pay, with the technology team going so far as to add Blackberry support for veteran Petr Cech.
Your health is your wealth
Ahead of Arsenal’s new kit deal with Adidas, the club have a huge range of Puma training kit to utilise before it is contractually destroyed in July 2019. With the blessing of the medical team who are increasingly worried about the transfer of germs, all training gear is to be worn once before being auctioned off for charity.
The club have also decided this will save the cost of hiring a replacement for Vic Akers and cut down on the amount of water consumed by the washing machines at London Colney. The downside has been an increase in chafe-related injuries but new managing director Vinai Venkatesham is confident the club can now proactively source a lotion or cream partner to help with the skin problems.
So, a lot going on, and if it keeps up Arsenal are sure to finish in the Premier League this season somewhere in the table.