Arsenal have made a relatively seamless transition into the post-Wenger era under Unai Emery despite the barrage of criticism the board received over the appointment.
Arsenal’s development under Emery has been monitored with hawk-like vision from afar, with the British media scrutinising the finer details of both the new philosophy and the results. But the truth is that there is a glaring absence of a radical change in ideas under Emery.
The Spaniard, in many respects, is basically a younger, slicker and modern alternative to the French legend. The principles which defined Wenger’s era remain in tact, albeit with a notably more direct and clinical touch.
A return of 41 league goals this season, just 2 less than league leaders Liverpool, provides the tangible evidence to suggest attacking football still reigns supreme in the red half of north London.
Perhaps the most quintessential example of how Arsenal remain aesthetically pleasing and fuelled by creativity arrived at Craven Cottage in October when Aaron Ramsey instinctively back-heeled the ball into the far corner to round off a flamboyant, samba-style breakaway.
As the year reaches its conclusion, Sky Sports pundits have been tasked with naming their favourite goal of 2018, and Phil Thompson singled out Ramsey’s strike as his number one.
“I’m going for this Arsenal goal because it was such a good team move, with such great technique in a lot of those touches. Starting from their own half, obviously the finish was class, but it wasn’t just normal passing, there were some great touches and flicks in it which made it something special.
“People will always score these goals blasted in from outside the box, but this team goal was something special.”
While it’s important to look at the bigger picture of Emery’s tenure so far, it’s fair to label Ramsey’s strike as a defining moment in his time at the club thus far. It was that goal which proved Arsenal have retained the principles installed into the nucleus of the club by Wenger, but Emery’s continuation has allowed them to play with a greater level of freedom and dynamism which, ultimately, should enable them to return to the top-four by the end of next season.
It’s perhaps a tad ironic that the scorer of the goal will not be an integral part of the new era, but the combination play which preceded Ramsey’s moment of deft magic was a memorable sequence with a telling message regarding Emery’s credentials.
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