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Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez says Unai Emery is a good manager, and explains what he thinks the new head coach’s plan is for Arsenal this season.
Arsenal overcame Newcastle with a 2-1 victory at St. James’ Park at the weekend, putting together two consecutive league wins away from home for the first time in 16 months.
Benitez was complimentary to his opposite number after the game, speaking to the media about Emery’s strengths.
“[Emery] is a good manager that likes to have his team organised,” Benitez said. “The way he is playing is very similar to what we were doing in Valencia or even in Liverpool. The team is organised and pressing, and when you have the ball, passing the ball and trying to play as well as you can.
“The difference is obviously you have a team that used to do that but maybe could have some balance in defence. He is trying to do that, he is trying to find this balance, while at the same time keeping the offensive mentality.”
As Benitez says, the plan is clearly to find the team some defensive solidity, particularly after last season. Arsenal conceded 51 league goals in 2017/18, 13 more than the next closest teams in Liverpool and Chelsea.
At the same time, Emery can’t afford to lose what Arsenal have going well for them at the other end. It’s a balancing act, and at the moment that’s leading to a lot of close games. As long as the results keep coming though, that’s not really a problem.
For any manager, taking over a team that finished sixth and trophyless is going to require a transition period. Arsenal aren’t going to immediately shoot up to the top of the table. If they can make a concerted effort to push for a top-four spot, as well as showing evidence of where Emery is trying to take them, that would be a good first season.