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Monchi & Man Utd: Why it's been a good few days for Arsenal boss Emery

COMMENT: Three points off a direct rival and an imminent reunion with an old friend. It's been a decent couple of days for Unai Emery and Arsenal.

That reunion, of course, will be with his old sparring partner at Sevilla - Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo. Having had his contract ripped up at AS Roma last week, Monchi is ready to answer Emery's SOS and reignite the old partnership that brought so much success to Sevilla.

In the meantime, Emery is today poring over the zenith of his Arsenal career thus far. Yes, Manchester United rightly claim they had the better of the chances. Yes they twice struck the frame of Bernd Leno's goal in the first-half. But that's just it, Arsenal didn't waver. They didn't melt away. They went toe-to-toe with the hottest team in Europe. And at the end of the 90, no-one could begrudge them the three points. It was that sort of classic Gunners v United game. Either team could've won. And whoever did leave with the three points, did so deservedly.

For Emery, this was a personal triumph. His opposite number, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, acknowledging in the aftermath that Arsenal's move to a back three hindered the reliance of his system on using the flanks. The Gunners manager was also rewarded with his selection. Pairing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front. Going with young Ainsley Maitland-Niles at fullback. All three were outstanding on the day. Particularly Lacazette, who was unplayable at times.

It was a bold team selection. Supported by a considered tactical approach. And the reward was three points off a team which had just knocked three goals past the French champions - and in Paris. Form. Momentum. Belief. These factors matter. And they were all with the opposition going into Sunday. Yet Emery and Arsenal stopped this United juggernaut dead in it's tracks. The significance of this - and the way it was achieved - shouldn't be underestimated.

Slowly. Gradually. The message is getting through. And, this column would argue, as Emery's English improves so will Arsenal.

Watching Emery in the post-match presser. For every question. The Basque would give it his utmost attention. You could see him searching for the right words. Emotive words. Words to describe more than simply tactics on a magnet board. Emery would gaze directly at the questioner. And he would answer with an intensity. Not something uncomfortable. But with just enough emotion that convinces you that this reply is genuine. That he wants his response to mean more than a simple answer.

It's an intensity that is too much for some. Just ask Hatem Ben Arfa, now of Rennes but once of PSG under Emery. The former Newcastle United midfielder happy to mock the "agitated" Emery during Rennes' Europa League triumph last week. But while he can be too much for some, for others like Ever Banega and Denis Suarez, they'll bounce around Europe just to work with him again. And for all of Ben Arfa's bravado, in any 'show us your medals' throw down we know who comes out on top.

In the post-match on Sunday night, it's significant that twice Arsenal players talked about 'dying' for the team or teammates. It's a phrase commonly used throughout Spanish football. Though rarely heard in England. But both Granit Xhaka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles used the line last night. Clearly the message from the manager is getting through.

And that approach will soon be reinforced by the arrival of Monchi. A three-year contract is on the table, with minor details now being ironed out.

In Italy, there's an acknowledgement that Monchi found himself isolated - even let down - in his second season with Roma. The Spaniard even earning some respect for standing up to the club's ultras last week after being accused of "destroying our team".

"You're good," he replied, "in six months I'll come back and pick you off one by one." A response described by one of the big Italian sports dailys as proving "Monchi has b***s". Those larks at AFTV have been warned.

But despite his demise, Monchi's legacy as sports director will be felt for many years to come at Roma. It was his idea to add Francesco Totti to his staff. To have the just retired Roma icon learn the ropes alongside him last season. And the pair did some great work together - Cengiz Under, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Justin Kluivert and Nicolo Zaniolo all arriving during the Monchi era. A group of young players coveted across Europe and one which could be the spine of a Roma team for the next ten years.

Arsenal will be nothing like his experience with Roma. At the Gunners he will have allies in both Emery and former Barcelona jack-of-all-trades Raul Sanllehi. And unlike Rome, he knows London, having lived in the city and used it as a scouting base while running things with Sevilla.

Emery and Monchi. It is simply an easy and obvious fit. And if they can recapture what they had in Seville, then days like Sunday are sure to become a regular thing for this Arsenal team.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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