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THAT tackle: How Emery transforming Arsenal in front of fans' eyes

COMMENT: It was a first for Emirates. A first for the full house. Something no fan at Arsenal's home stadium had ever seen before...

On the touchline. Well into their showdown with Liverpool. Unai Emery, the Gunners manager, was going du-lally. A goal? No. A poor ref call? Nah. It was a tackle. A ball n' all challenge from Granit Xhaka on a rampaging Mo Salah. As the linesman signaled for a corner, we all looked back at Emery and saw him punching the air. Celebrating Xhaka's effort as passionately as he would Alexandre Lacazette's equaliser later in the game. No-one had seen the like of it. In it's 12-year existence, the home dugout of the Emirates had never witnessed it's manager celebrate a tackle - until now...

Winning has helped Emery bed down at London Colney. Scoring goals has also played it's part. But the best thing the Basque has going for him right now is that he isn't Arsene Wenger. Not in actions. Nor in tactics. Emery is giving his new support everything their former manager couldn't - or wouldn't - in his final years in charge.

Emery would later describe Xhaka's challenge as a game's "small detail", "but I love them, both defensively and offensively". A 40:60 tackle. A show of courage without the ball. Parts of the game that still get the average Premier League fan off his seat. As he said, Emery loves them. That steel. That edge. Everything that Wenger's teams once had, but would fade with the memories of his Invincibles. Now his successor is bringing it all back.

You only have to listen to the players to see the changes sweeping through the club. Tactics. Patterns. They're always going to vary from manager to manager. But Emery's impact is already running much deeper. This is cultural.

Before this season, you'd never get an Arsenal goalscorer talking like Lacazette did in the post-match.

"Today we saw we have the quality to play at the top of the league," okay, fair enough, but then the Frenchman delivered the kicker: "The first half has maybe been a little bit hard but in the second half we have been better, maybe more physical and it's good."

Hang on. Did we just hear that? A player. An attacking player. In an Arsenal shirt. Stating 'it's good to be physical'? The place is definitely changing...

Nico Pareja, who played for Emery at Spartak Moscow and Sevilla, won't be surprised by the transformation we're all witnessing at Arsenal.

Talking about his old coach, the Argentine stated: "With Emery I learned to be tactically switched on, to be well placed on the field, to be aggressive in the tackle. He is a coach who works hard and who always gives his best for the team to succeed - and expects the same from you."

And that's just it. As this column previously highlighted, with Emery, what you see is what you get. Arsenal fans have no need to second guess. He leaves it all on the field. Well, let's say his technical area. If he's upset, we'll all know about it. If he's happy, the same. Again, he is everything Wenger was not. And for now, it's working.

That's not to say there won't be bumps in the road. Emery can elicit incredible loyalty from his players. And this will happen at London Colney. But there will also be those who fall by the wayside. Either unwilling - or incapable - of meeting the manager's demands. As Pareja stated, Emery expects what he does for the players to be reciprocated. From the current squad, Aaron Ramsey won't be the only one to fall away as the Emery era gathers momentum. Even his most loyal players admit his intensity can be too much for some.

"He asks all players to participate in the defensive work, even the attackers," says Valencia striker Kevin Gameiro, who worked with Emery at Sevilla. "It is not easy to work with him.

"He is passionate about football, he eats, he lives, he sleeps with a football. He is a good person, but as a coach he is sometimes difficult, though in the end if he understands that you work and strive, your reward will come."

So for this Arsenal team. Under this manager. There's no more indulging. And no more luxury roles. The days of the, ahem, selfie boys are at an end.

Emery is changing the culture. The principles. What is valued on the pitch. And nothing could illustrate the transformation more than the home manager's reaction to that tackle in Saturday's draw with Liverpool.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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