The slate has been wiped clean.
No preconceptions, no existing variables that can temper an end result.
This season will be hard to gauge for this very reason, but what constitutes a good season for Unai Emery’s new regime?
The Spaniard has spent a moderate amount of money to reinforce a squad that appeared threadbare in Wenger’s final season. Normally, the amount spent correlates to a certain amount of pressure on the coach, but Emery seems to be exempt from this.
The reason for this? Probably because of what Emery inherited. He had a team that could only crane their neck upwards at the top places. We had certain top quality players, but we were lopsided. If the squad stayed as it was from last season, then any coach would struggle to contend for a Champions League place.
So, is that the barometer now for Emery? Does the Spanish coach need to reach the top4 in order for this season to be gauged a success?
Whatever is achieved or not, whether Emery’s first campaign is viewed as successful is entirely subjective. Some may view a mere improvement on last season as a good season for us.
Some may demand a return to European football’s pinnacle in order for our new coach to be able to claim progress.
What of a trophy though?
If we simply maintained our position of 6th from last term, but we lifted either the FA Cup or, preferably, the Europa League? Would this constitute success to most of us?
Emery has a battle on his hands in terms of duking it out on the league front, with our rivals reinforcing their sides from the ones who finished above us last season. If he brought us Champions League football then it would be a return to where we belong, but it would also be a return to a competition that we have no real chance of winning.
The Europa League is a breath of fresh air as we are going into it with genuine hopes of winning the trophy. It would also be the biggest European trophy we will have won. It’s a wonderful feeling, the intoxicating nights midweek when knockout football means all or nothing, but we have a fair chance of actually progressing to the next round.
Emery is a well-documented specialist in this competition – the rest schedule, the level required – and he will indeed push his squad to make the most of the chance to give us memories we can’t forget.
If Emery was to win a trophy in his first season, it would make his debut campaign instantly memorable. His new tactics are taking time to bed in though, so should we take this into account?
Patience is hard to apply when losses are coming thick and fast. but we haven’t merely changed a manager. Our whole style on the pitch is changing. Pressing, moving, fitness, defence, passing – all changing, and this demands time. When the finished article is present and polished, then we can judge, but right now?
That’s like going to view your new car when it’s being constructed – and then passing judgement over it.
We are a work in progress, and if we are competing with our rivals, then that could be viewed as satisfactory for this season.
What constitutes a success for Emery then this season?
Get us back to where we can go into a game against the clubs expected to finish above us, and have a sliver of optimism that doesn’t feel ludicrous to suggest out loud. We want Arsenal back where we belong.
A trophy would be nice, but this season neews to show the buds of new beginnings. That should be enough for the majority of us.