The Premier League may be in its off-season break but there will be little rest this summer for the country’s leading managers.
With the challenges to come in the 2018/19 season already at the forefront of their minds, they will have a busy few weeks ahead, preparing and plotting how their team can improve on the previous campaign.
All this week, we will be taking a look at what the top managers will be mulling over while their players are away on holiday or at the World Cup. Next up is Unai Emery, the new Arsenal head coach.
After 21 pre-seasons to prepare for at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has passed on the baton, and now it is time for Emery to make his mark.
New job, new surroundings
Like any new workplace, Emery needs time to acclimatise. In the two weeks since the Spaniard was unveiled, he will have shaken hands with more people than he can remember, but as the new face of this transitionary period, he will be eager to hit the ground running.
One matter which needs to be resolved is the club’s backroom staff. Six members of Wenger’s team reportedly followed the Frenchman out the door – including head of medical Colin Lewin and first-team coach Neil Banfield – and Emery will sit down with CEO Ivan Gazidis to discuss who joins him at London Colney.
“The hard work starts right now,” Gazidis told Arsenal Player. “We are right into the transfer window of course, but we’re also into many other things such as how we’re going to integrate his team, how we think about pre-season planning, how the teams are going to work together.
“There’s a lot of work to be done now to integrate this new team into our existing team. I know that we can do that successfully but it’s going to take hard work through the summer.”
On a personal note, the hard work will also take place in the classroom for Emery. He admirably gave his first press conference in English, but he will continue to learn the language, and the variety of football idioms that go with it, as the year goes on.
But while media duties are expected to involve a translator at the start of the season, there are some far more crucial conversations impending for Emery, upon the return of Arsenal’s players to training.
Who stays, who goes?
Regarding potential outgoings, and also arrivals, it is worth noting that Emery is unlikely to have the final say, with head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and head of football relations Raul Sanllehi appointed in late 2017 to take care of such matters.
But while Emery grows accustomed to where he sits within this structure, he will still look to talk each individual player throughout the summer to see where they stand.
One name highlighted on his list will be Jack Wilshere, whose contract expires at the end of June. Though talks over an extension are ongoing, the midfielder will seek reassurances that he features in Emery’s plans, particularly after the disappointment of not making Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the World Cup.
In a similar vein, Hector Bellerin’s future will need to be resolved. The full-back failed to make Spain’s squad for this summer’s tournament, and though he claimed he is “definitely happy at the club“, Barcelona’s reported interest could turn the 23-year-old’s head.
Brings in leaders
Arsenal have been berated in recent seasons for a lack of leadership on the pitch. Former player Sol Campbell said so in March, as did ex-Chelsea captain Dennis Wise, while Watford skipper Troy Deeney was damning in his assessment back in November when saying players at the club lacked “cojones”.
It appears the wheels are already in motion on this front, with 34-year-old Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner becoming Emery’s first signing on Tuesday.
Emery acknowledged Lichtsteiner brings “huge experience and leadership” to the club, while the defender told www.arsenal.com that he hopes to bring a winning mentality with him from Juventus, having won seven successive Serie A titles in Italy.
Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos is on the verge of joining Arsenal, according to the player’s father, while the Gunners are also reportedly weighing up a move for Marouane Fellaini – another indication that Arsenal are looking to add further steel to their armour.
But while the pursuit of players on a free will do little to invigorate Arsenal fans, reports of a £70m budget means one or two high-calibre signings could be on the way, with Jean Michael Seri and Lorenzo Pellegrini two such possibilities.
Top-four finishes became the norm for Arsenal under Wenger, but sustained title challenges have been few and far between in recent years, with the club ending outside the Champions League spots for the past two seasons.
Emery did not shy away from admitting he wants Arsenal to challenge for the Premier League, and become “among the best in Europe”, but it would require a remarkable turn in form to achieve this in his first season in charge.
A return to Europe’s premier competition would be regarded a success, but there are plenty of battles Emery must win along the way to make this a possibility.
He will also have to work on revitalising Arsenal’s fanbase, many of whom became disillusioned, and absent from the Emirates, as the club slipped further down the table. However, there will be an air of positivity as the season gets underway, and Emery can only hope to keep that going.
When are Arsenal back in action?
Arsenal will jet off to Singapore for the International Champions Cup in late July, where they face Atletico Madrid and Emery’s former club Paris Saint-Germain in the space of three days. They will then return to Europe for a friendly with Cheslea a week before the Premier League starts.
Arsenal’s pre-season fixtures
July 26: Atletico Madrid (Singapore)
July 28: PSG (Singapore)
August 4: Chelsea (Stockholm, Sweden)