Unai Emery says he has the backing of Arsenal’s hierarchy to implement his long-term vision for the club although he admits winning games is the only way to maintain that freedom.
The Spaniard knows that returning the Gunners to the Champions League is his number one priority this season but he has been led to believe that he won’t be solely judged by results on the pitch.
Currently sitting fifth in the league, struggling for form away from home and with a tough FA Cup clash against Manchester United on the horizon, Emery might have expected a cash-injection to add new faces in the January transfer window.
Having confirmed that he’s only in the market for loan deals and with Sven Mislintat, the club’s head of recruitment, seemingly set for a surprise exit after 18 months, questions are starting to be asked of the stability of the post-Wenger structure at the Emirates.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash with Chelsea, Emery remains optimistic, even though he knows the football landscape is quick to change.
“After my experiences in Spain, in Russia and in France, I believe that here, people see football in a very distinct way,” he told Sky Sports.
“As well as the teams being more competitive and tougher, I believe the fans feel football from the heart.
“The question of whether you win, lose or draw is very important, but there is always a respect towards football beyond just the result.
“That means you can do a more progressive job, a job based on building from the bottom without only thinking about results, because sometimes, a result can hide solid foundations.
“As a manager, I have always put myself under the pressure of the necessity to win. You know that winning will allow you to either continue what you’re doing or to find another project. And you know that if you lose, they will take the project you already have away from you.
“But at Arsenal, it’s maybe the first time I feel that I have the support to build up from the bottom in order to get where we want to be.
“It allows us to work more for the long-term – or at least, ‘long-term’ in football terms. It supports the kind of work we want to do at this club.”
Having conceded 32 goals in the league this season – four more than 14th placed Crystal Palace – but with the division’s third best attack, it’s clear that Emery has struggled to balance the squad inherited from Arsene Wenger.
He accepts that things have to improve, especially at the back, although he doesn’t want that to come at the expense of his side’s ambitions in attack.
“There are things we have managed to improve but there are other things that need more time, and defensive consistency is one of them,” he says. “We still have a lot of work to do there.”
“When I arrived, we spoke about the Arsenal before Wenger, which was consistent in defence but didn’t have much brilliance in attack.
“In the transition under Wenger, it was about making the most of that defensive work and adding more quality in attack, which was when Arsenal were a winning team.
“But in the last few years it became different. It was a team which always had a great attack, with players who were very good technically, but with a very, very low level of defensive solidity.
“Now, we are in a transition where we are looking for a balance.
“I don’t want to lose all the good things about this team. There are times when defensively we have not been very solid, but we have still won because offensively we have created a lot of chances. So, at the moment, I am still leaning towards making sure the team doesn’t lose what it has. But yes, it’s true that we have to achieve greater defensive solidity.”