LONDON – Arsenal are on their best winning run for 11 years after thrashing Fulham 5-1 to make it nine successive victories in all competitions.
It is an unexpectedly strong start to the season for the Gunners after their dismal form in the final campaign of Arsene Wenger’s reign.
AFP Sport takes a closer look at the reasons for Arsenal’s revival under new manager Unai Emery…
Emery makes his mark
Unai Emery arrived at the Emirates Stadium to find a club in turmoil after the painful end of Wenger’s 22-year stay, but the Spaniard has quickly won over his players with his relentless work ethic.
Emery was pushed out at Paris Saint-Germain after failing to win the Champions League, but he knows the recipe for success after lifting the French title and landing the Europa League with Sevilla.
Emery relies on intense training sessions and video footage that can improve his players and find weaknesses in opponents.
That attention to detail has allowed Arsenal to adapt to Emery’s desire for a high-tempo pressing game and a commitment to passing out from the back.
Emery has also shown he is not afraid to take on the team’s under-achieving stars. Earlier this season, he reportedly made it clear to German playmaker Mesut Ozil that he needs to work harder if he is to keep his place.
The breakdown of Aaron Ramsey’s contract talks is another thorny issue that Emery has so far navigated successfully, as the Wales midfielder showed his class with a committed display and superb goal at Fulham.
Star strikers shine
Finding a way to balance the talents of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has restored much-needed menace to Arsenal’s forward line.
Under Wenger, Arsenal were often guilty of over-elaboration as their attacks would peter out due to an apparent desire to score the perfect goal every time.
Aubameyang quickly emerged as a force following his January move from Borussia Dortmund, but the Gabon striker’s arrival pushed Lacazette into a bit-part role.
Emery has solved that problem by playing Lacazette as his central striker in recent weeks and using Aubameyang in a wider role.
The revitalised Lacazette is a far more dominant and demonstrative figure in his second season, with his brace at Fulham taking his goal tally to five this term.
Aubameyang already has six goals after coming off the bench to score twice against Fulham, while Alex Iwobi has also emerged as a more influential figure on the flanks.
Luck of the draw
Although Arsenal are enjoying a fine run, it has not escaped the notice of their more eagle-eyed fans that the success has come against a collection of teams unlikely to be parading silverware at the end of the season.
Arsenal’s nine victories have been amassed at the expense of West Ham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Everton, Watford and Fulham in the Premier League, while Brentford were beaten in the League Cup, along with wins over Vorskla Poltava and Qarabag in the Europa League.
Some of the performances in those matches were far from convincing, but Emery’s men still deserve credit for a ruthless streak that deserted them against the lesser lights under Wenger.
Defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea at the start of the season suggest Arsenal’s clashes with Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United in November and December will prove better evidence of whether the revival is sustainable.