Unai Emery Arsenal 2018-19Getty Images

Work, work, work! How Emery has changed the mindset of Arsenal's players

If you needed a quotation to encapsulate Unai Emery’s managerial philosophy then “I think we suffered in the match – but I want to suffer” is by far the most apt.

It was said by the Spaniard after Arsenal beat Qarabag 3-0 in the Europa League, a match that was far tougher than the scoreline suggested.

Emery’s philosophy is simple: he wants every single player to show that they want to win while playing with the style and values that embody Arsenal Football Club.

Article continues below

The 46-year-old brought in his own backroom staff when he replaced Arsene Wenger this summer – with all five playing an integral part in Emery’s recent managerial jobs – and they have reinvigorated Arsenal’s training sessions, making them "hard work" but "fun".

“Each match, you are looking for every player to transmit intensity, aggression, to show that they want to win and are prepared to work hard to win,” said Emery during Arsenal’s pre-season.  

“We want to do that with style, with a personality, with protagonists on the pitch. We want every player to create things and find things when they're on the ball. When we are without the ball, we also want to show ambition to recover the ball quickly. 

“We want to demonstrate that not only in every match, but also in every training session. We want our players to be energetic, full of action with or without the ball and as protagonists on the pitch doing things.”


Each coach has their own unique management style and Emery is no different. He speaks regularly to his players and while he likes to maintain a close relationship, he maintains a healthy distance. He avoids getting too close.

Granit Xhaka is one player who has benefited from Emery’s one-to-one coaching, having been played at left-back in recent games and encouraged to not overthink what he does on the pitch.

"His relationship with the players is very good and he always tries to motivate us. He demands a lot in training to help you grow," Emery’s former player Nico Pareja told ESPN

"He likes to talk to us a lot. He works 24 hours for football and is an excellent professional. That, for the player, is a huge help because he tries to study all the aspects of the game to get the most out of us."

Xhaka received criticism last season for clumsy errors and defensive mistakes but he has looked much better alongside new midfield partner Lucas Torreira this season.

Emery developed an excellent reputation for improving players at Sevilla, with Jose Antonio Reyes and Ever Banega arguably his greatest success stories.

Hector Bellerin Unai Emery ArsenalGetty Images

Emery’s father, grandfather and uncle were professional football players and it’s no surprise to see his passion for the game make him such a perfectionist off the pitch.

Pre-match analysis remains at the forefront of Arsenal’s preparations and video analyst Victor Manas has an impeccable tendency to simplify video analysis for the first team squad.

Off the pitch, players are also encouraged to eat immediately after training session to aid recovery, while there has been a significant decrease in muscle injuries since the medical department was revamped over the summer.

It’s not just the first team that share Emery’s values. He speaks closely with all of the academy coaches and takes a keen interest on the development of Arsenal’s youth players, ensuring that there is synergy and shared principles throughout the ranks.

"I speak to him [Emery] every week," says Arsenal under-23 coach Freddie Ljungberg. "We're very close. He helps me in my work and we think the same way in football. That helps my players when they come up and train with the first team." 

Working hard is the aim of the game and that’s exactly what this Arsenal team are doing day in, day out. The process won’t reap rewards overnight but it can place the Gunners in a strong position going forward, with Champions League qualification and a potential domestic trophy now realistic goals for the current campaign after a summer of uncertainty. 

“We are trying to play football, our second goal against Chelsea we had 19 consecutive passes and then Alex [Iwobi] finished the attack and we scored,” said attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

“It’s a new philosophy, we have to accept that and work hard to achieve our goals.” 

Two goals in the last 10 minutes against Watford, a narrow 3-2 win over Cardiff and staying in a game against Crystal Palace when backs were against the wall show that Arsenal are now a team that fights right until the end.

There is surely more to come, too. With Emery’s message clearly being heard at London Colney, it only seems like a matter of time before all of the hard work pays off for Arsenal.