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Same old Arsenal? No chance. Emery laid down a marker in Man City defeat

COMMENT: Same old Arsenal? Arsene Wenger's Arsenal? No chance. Yeah, it was a defeat. A chastening one at that. But Unai Emery laid down a marker on Sunday. Look a little deeper. Beyond the wailing. And there's something fans can grab onto...

From Ligue 2 to facing the champions of England is a tough challenge for any pro, let alone a 19 year-old. And Matteo Guendouzi did look out of his depth at times against Manchester City. The former PSG junior was caught flat-footed by Raheem Sterling for City's opener. But what he did, it was enough for Emery. And this is where for Arsenal... For the players. Especially the senior players... the fallout from this first game lays bare.

It wasn't the kid from France who was hooked less than ten minutes after the break. No, that was Aaron Ramsey. Just as it wasn't Guendouzi's turn to come in for the day on 70 minutes. Instead, that call was for Granit Xhaka.

Against the champions. At home. On the opening day of the season. Guendouzi saw them both off. Emery gave the kid his full 90. He made mistakes. He was caught out. He produced a performance you'd expect from a teenager plucked out of France's second division.

But he gave Emery what Ramsey, Xhaka and other hold-overs from the Wenger era couldn't. Hustle. Energy. Effort. The very least Emery would expect from every player on Sunday's team sheet.

But there was little zip from those expected to drive Emery's pre-match instructions. And even less intensity. Instead of being directed, Guendouzi was having to do the pointing. Instead of being guided, it was he who would jump into space left open by more experienced teammates. And Emery saw it - and more importantly he acted upon it.

Ten years an Arsenal player. That's Aaron Ramsey. A senior man in the dressing room. One, you'd expect, ever ready to offer advice to the likes of Guendouzi. But it was he who was hauled off before ten minutes had run for the second-half. Moments before, he'd played a poorly judged pass. But there'd be no chance of making that up. Emery saw his moment. And he made his statement.

This Arsenal. His Arsenal. It won't be created on reputation. The easy decision would've been to call in Guendouzi, drop Ramsey into midfield and play Alexandre Lacazette alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Indeed, just a goal down, you'd fancy such a call would've placed the hosts in a stronger position.

But this was the manager laying down a marker. That contract tabled to Ramsey at the end of last season remains unsigned. Everyone else is rowing in the same direction - except the Welshman. But for all that. For all the frustration. The doubt about whether he's willing to 'buy in'. Emery gave Ramsey his chance - ahead of Lacazette. And the 10-year Gooner flopped.

More than Xhaka, Emery will be watching Ramsey's response today. His attraction to management has always been the psychology of his players. Their behaviour. Their reaction to situations. And how he can tailor his approach to get the best from them.

Ramsey only need get on the phone to David Luiz, the Chelsea defender, to learn how ruthless his manager can be. Two years ago this column detailed how one of Emery's first actions as PSG coach was to call Luiz to his new office and inform the Brazilian he wasn't part of his plans.

"Veterans have a more developed ego and it's harder to get them going the way you want," he's stated in the past. "Young people are 'virgin' products? that you can model more easily. With them, it's easier because they are hungry to learn."

Where Ramsey and Xhaka failed to give their manager "what you want", Guendouzi delivered. And the difference from his predecessor is that Emery will act.

Ramsey, Ozil, Hector Bellerin. Yeah, Emery has said the right things about those he's inherited. The Basque was never going to start throwing hand grenades about in preseason. But his actions on Sunday, if Arsenal's senior players have anything about them, will resonate like thunder.

This is a new era. And a new Arsenal. Either get on board, or get off my pitch.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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