Arsenal put their early season woes behind them as they beat Fulham 5-1 at Craven Cottage to extend their winning run to nine games in all competitions.
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.
The absence of Petr Cech, Sokratis Padastathopolous and Mesut Ozil worked in Arsenal’s favour on the day, as it allowed them to play the Emery way. For the first time this season, Arsenal utilised Emery’s preferred 4-4-2 system, which granted him so much success at Sevilla and PSG.
Petr Cech’s weak distribution skills means that Bernand Leno is a much better option for implementing Emery’s philosophy of building from the back.
Sokratis has made a good start to his Arsenal career, however, Rob Holding’s excellent form meant he retained his place in the side as the Greek defender remained on the bench. Holding put in another composed and assured performance as he made his fourth start in a row for the Gunners.
Captain Laurent Koscielny, who is back in training, will provide further competition for places when he returns to the first team.
Since new signing Lucas Torreira has come into the starting eleven, Arsenal have conceded one goal in three games. The form of Torreira and Xhaka meant there was no place for Matteo Guendouzi or Aaron Ramsey in the starting eleven.
The breakdown of Ramsey’s contract talks is another thorny issue that Emery has so far navigated successfully. The Wales midfielder showed his class by coming off the bench and providing the stunning finish to an excellent team move and an assist for Aubameyang’s second goal in a committed display.
Mesut Ozil missed the game with a back spasm, and although he scored a crucial goal to seal the points in last weekend’s win over Watford, it is hard to see where he fits in this Emery side. Earlier this season the manager reportedly made it clear to the German playmaker that he needs to work harder if he is to keep his place.
Ozil has looked ineffective when deployed on the flanks, and Arsenal looked well balanced with the high-energy Mhikitaryan and Iwobi on the flanks. It will be interesting to see whether Emery makes his next team selection based on reputation or on form.
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.
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.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits by Joseph McBrien)