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Unai Emery Has Made Me Believe in Myself Again, Says Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi

Unai Emery Has Made Me Believe in Myself Again, Says Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi

Friday, 23 November, 2018 - 09:00
Alex Iwobi on the attack during Arsenal’s 3-1 Premier League victory over Leicester on Monday. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
London- David Hytner
Alex Iwobi says that Unai Emery has removed the fear of failure at Arsenal, which has allowed the club to piece together a run of 10 consecutive victories in all competitions.

The atmosphere towards the end of the Arsène Wenger years was tainted by negativity, which was not all down to the former manager – rather the broader situation around him and the yearning for change among a large section of the fanbase.

One of the consequences was an extreme lack of patience. If the team fell behind in matches, the players would not want to make mistakes and, invariably, they chose not to take risks. The result could be inertia; an inability to make comebacks.

Emery has benefitted from a greater degree of slack but, at the same time, he has driven a positive feeling through his bold approach. Arsenal started poorly once again at home to Leicester on Monday night. They trailed 1-0 after 31 minutes and the deficit could and should have been greater.

There are defensive holes in the team and it was not difficult to imagine how the Emirates crowd would have reacted last season. But Arsenal remained unafraid to express themselves in an attacking sense and the result was an eventual 3-1 win – in which Mesut Özil was the star turn, scoring the equalizer and helping to create the other two for the substitute, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

“The manager has imposed a new style and we are enjoying our time,” Iwobi said. “We are enjoying each other and the chemistry is good – it’s not just the people who are starting but those on the bench, as well. It’s a team thing and we are all enjoying it.

“ The manager has just given me the confidence to express myself and to believe in my ability, which I have been trying to show. In training, too, he is always letting me try new things – be positive, be direct and prove it in the games. It is working for me so I just have to keep it going.

“Do I feel like a better player than a year ago? I’d just say I am more confident. I feel that even if I make a mistake, I am able to go again. I think that is the difference between me last year and this year.”

Emery suggested after the Leicester game that he could not always accommodate Özil and Aaron Ramsey in the same team. Increasingly, it feels as though it will be either/or of the No 10s in the lineup – it was Özil rather than Ramsey on Monday – and it has essentially left Iwobi in competition with Aubameyang, Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for one of the wide midfield berths.

Iwobi got the nod on the left ahead of Aubameyang and Welbeck against Leicester, and he was a factor in the comeback, getting into dangerous areas towards the end of the first half. Emery’s double substitution at 1-1, however, would prove decisive and it was an illustration of his desire to find new ways to liberate the team. Aubameyang replaced Mkhitaryan to good effect but almost as eye-catching was the introduction of Mattéo Guendouzi for Stephan Lichtsteiner. Granit Xhaka dropped to left-back to allow Guendouzi to play in midfield and it was the kind of creative solution for which Emery is making his name in England.

Enjoyment was the theme of the evening and nobody epitomized it more than Özil. Some of his touches were sublime and, in the build-up to the third goal, he pulled off a back-heeled flick, a dummy and a deft, outside-of-the-boot assist.

“I get the privilege to play with Mesut every day,” Iwobi said. “He is a world-class player. He gives me advice in a different way. He jokes around but he always tells me I can do more. He also gives me the confidence to express myself.”

(The Guardian)

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