UNAI EMERY Speaks -My Team is going to need to dig deep for the next few games
Unai Emery admits his team may be heading for difficult Times.
He looked, and sounded, like a man desperate for a day off. Yes, the usual cover of politeness was still there, but as he surveyed the room after Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Huddersfield, the answers were even more brief than usual, the tone a little tired.
Yes, Lucas Torreira has quality. No, he wasn’t going to comment on the spurious nitrous oxide story. No, he wasn’t yet thinking about the Southampton game. “I need my mind take off for two days,” he protested, This was one of those sentences where despite his struggling English you knew exactly what he meant. He needs Rest. And so does his Players. There is a rash of games ahead of them. The Christmas schedule in England is intense. The Injuries at the Back are an unwelcome development but the Manager insists they can weather the storm if the Squad digs deep and draws strength from inside
It has, after all, been a gruelling few months. Not just the avalanche of footballing decisions he has had to take in the daily course of his job:All the tactics, the substitutions, the training sessions, the January transfer strategy. But the other stuff: the intense traveling schedule, the strain of moving and adapting to an entirely new country, the immense weight that comes with being one of the most significant and scrutinized managerial appointments in the history of the game.
Dragging Arsenal into the post-Wenger era was always going to be a difficult challenge. Doing it whilst going 21 games unbeaten and remaining competitive in three competitions: tougher still. Emery may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and his job isn’t close to being easy. But if anyone’s earned a “two-day mind take-off”, it’s him.
13 games in 41 days, and already the bruising fixture list is taking its toll. Defence is the most immediately pressing area: Rob Holding’s season appears to be over after his cruciate ligament injury, Shkodran Mustafi limped off in the second half with a tweaked hamstring, and in any case he and Sokratis Papastathopoulos will both miss the next Premier League game after picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season, and a one-match suspension.
With Calum Chambers unable to be recalled from loan at Fulham, Emery’s options at centre-half look increasingly thin. Captain Laurent Koscielny was named on the bench on Saturday, but hasn’t completed 90 minutes since April, and limped off in the recent Checkatrade Trophy game against Portsmouth with cramp. Nacho Monreal is still feeling his way back to full fitness. Stephan Lichtsteiner can play at centre-half, and those three will probably start against Southampton next weekend if Emery again opts for a back three. There’s also the promising but untested Dinos Mavropanos. But it’s far from ideal.“I don’t know how we are going to play next week,” Emery admitted. “But we have the players. Thursday’s game against Qarabag will be another good chance for Arsenal to get some minutes into the legs of their fringe players. And over the next few weeks, those fringe players will be needed more than ever. The games come thick and fast from this point: a new-look Southampton next weekend, then another north London derby in the Carabao Cup, then Burnley, Brighton, Liverpool and Fulham in the space of 10 days. crazy