2018 is the year when Arséne Wenger decided to pave way for his successor at the Emirates. 2018 is the year when Unai Emery proved his doubters wrong by achieving an amazing unbeaten run with his team.
While it wasn’t plain sailing in the second half of the year, the first half of 2018 wasn’t pretty either. In this article, we’ll be taking a trip down the memory lane to review 2018 as a year for both the team and the fans.
The beginning of the end of the Wenger era.
I’m pretty sure that the football world was shocked to hear that Arsenal were knocked out by Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup last season, an embarrassing feat which never happened under Wenger, until 2018.
The away days in the final days under Wenger weren’t nice either, losing most of the games away from home with the chance of winning the Carabao Cup slipped away by being beaten by Manchester City 3-0 in the final.
There was some good news, though. Wenger’s parting gift to Arsenal, Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, proved to be a solid signing for the team and now, Emery is unleashing his potential to his best.
In Europe, Arsenal reached the semi-finals of the Europa League, where Atlético Madrid progressed to the final thanks to the goal by Diego Costa at the Wanda Metropolitano, which made it 2-1 to the home side.
So basically, Arsenal won nothing at the end of 2017/18 season aside from the FA Community Shield. They were 5th in the Premier League and hence, are currently playing in the Europa League again.
The end of the beginning of the Emery era.
When Unai Emery was presented as the new Arsenal manager, I still could remember that he needed a translating device to his ear in order to understand English. But apparently, he doesn’t need one now.
Emery’s first PL games after moving from PSG ended up with two consecutive losses. However, they were reasonable defeats, considering the opponents were Manchester City under Guardiola and Chelsea under Sarri.
After beating West Ham 3-1 at home, Arsenal endured a 22-game unbeaten run in all competitions, including the North London derby which was won 4-2 in style, until being beaten by Southampton away 3-2.
Their Carabao Cup journey also came to an end as Tottenham gained their revenge from the loss earlier this month with Son Heung-min and Dele Alli knocking the home side out by their goals.
Arsenal will be seeking for improvement after winning against Burnley and starting another unbeaten run. At the time of writing, Aubameyang is the top scorer of the Premier League. Hopefully, he’ll score more in 2019!
Why Emery proved that he’s more than a boss
Emery may not be at the same level as the top managers in the Premier League, like Klopp, Guardiola and Pochettino, but for a club who needs to rebuild the team like Arsenal, he’s a reasonable choice.
Back then when he was with Valencia and Sevilla, he had the reputation of having the ability to win trophies with a limited budget. This is partly why Arsenal decided to offer him a contract as Kroenke is a Scrooge.
Emery happens to be the right man to replace Wenger. As I’ve written before, Emery is the exact opposite of Wenger who doesn’t allow his men to give up and the mentality instilled is amazing, despite it doesn’t always work.
A positivity-driven coach, Emery is also active on social media and listens to the opinions of the supporters. He’s a bit stubborn to make changes during half-time but sometimes, it proved to create the game-changing moment later.
The best signings in 2018 (and why they are)
Note: This list is in no particular order and is subjective with the preference of the author.
Lucas Torreira (Uruguay)
I’m too lazy to list them out here. Please refer to my answer on Quora for the details.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
Aubameyang is now proving his worth in the Premier League not only by scoring goals but also giving assists and helping the team in defence for a little bit. What a signing Wenger made before he left us!
Bernd Leno (Germany)
Despite that he could have done better with the positioning and stuff on the pitch, you can’t really blame him for not keeping clean sheets. One thing for sure, though, is that Leno has the qualities to succeed Čech of his No. 1 shirt.
While there’s a huge chance that Arsenal won’t be winning anything these days, it’ll be interesting to see how Emery and his boys will do in 2019. It’s going to be tough, but I believe that they’ll weather the storm eventually.
On a side note, on behalf of the team, I would like to announce that FootyFans will be taking a break in predicting Premier League fixtures. We’ll be back in 2019. See you later soon!