Unai Emery will be up against it as he bids to transform the fortunes of Arsenal, according to one former player seen very much as a legend at the club.
The Spanish head coach took the hot seat at the Emirates Stadium after being unveiled yesterday in London following the departure of Arsene Wenger. His time at the Gunners came to a close when the curtain fell on his 22 years at the helm with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield in the Premier League on the last day of the season.
Emery, formerly boss at Valencia, Seville and Paris Saint-Germain, has been brought into try to take Arsenal back to the level of challenging for the game’s top honours, both domestically and in Europe.
But Ray Parlour, who won a clutch of honours during his time at Arsenal (which included a long period under Wenger), believes that the only way the newcomer to north London can secure the club’s first top flight title since 2004 is to be handed a war chest at least as big as that which Pep Guardiola can call on.
He steered Manchester City to the title last season, reaching 100 points. The most telling statistic of the campaign for Arsenal and Emery is that the Gunners, who ended up finishing sixth in the league table, came in some 37 points behind the Etihad Stadium outfit.
Parlour says that, of course, he would love to see Emery start the new season with all guns blazing and romp to the title to restore the good old days back to the red and white half of north London. But he is adamant that it won’t happen…at least in his first season in charge.
He said: “I would love him to do it, but I’m going to say no to Emery leaving Arsenal to the league championship. I think Man City are going to get stronger and stronger, and I think Pep Guardiola is going to stick around.
“I can’t see who’s going to challenge them. Top four is going to be crucial for Arsenal. They’ve got to get back into the Champions League, so, for me, top four will be a very successful season.
“Unless there’s massive investment, the same sort of investment that there is at Manchester City, they’ll never win the league. Manchester City will go out and buy the big players. If Pep Guardiola stays around and they keep trying to make the squad better, it’s going to be very hard.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang says he hopes that Emery sanctions a two-pronged approach to an attacking style of play when he takes the reigns. The Gabon ace, recruited by Wenger last January, is very much in favour of leading the line for the Gunners with a strike partner gunning for goals alongside him.
He said: “Everyone is aware that I enjoy playing through the centre and I very much hope that we can play with two attackers, which would be ideal. But if the new coach needs me on the wing, there’s no problem.”