LONDON: Unai Emery has implored his Arsenal stars to begin matches with more urgency as they head to Crystal Palace biding for a remarkable 12th successive victory on Sunday.
Emery’s side notched their 11th win in a row on Thursday as Danny Welbeck’s late strike sealed a 1-0 success at Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League.
Arsenal’s blistering streak is their best run for 11 years as they chase the club record of 14 consecutive wins in all competitions.
But to equal that landmark tally, set by George Graham’s team in 1987, the Gunners need to start games with a little more tempo and desire according to Emery.
Several times this season, Arsenal have laboured in the first half before turning in dominant displays after the interval.
“Each match is a very big opportunity to improve things and one thing is this,” Emery said when asked about starting matches too slowly.
“We spoke in the dressing room before the start of the match today about our objectives. And one objective is this.
“But the most important thing is that when we were in the dressing room at half-time, we spoke.
“We need to continue finding the solution for us to be better in the first halves.”
Arsenal’s current impressive sequence speaks volumes for the quiet revolution Emery has overseen at the Emirates Stadium following the end of Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign.
The former Paris Saint Germain manager’s attention to detail and his refusal to bow to the whims of star players like Mesut Ozil has won over a squad that went stale in the depressing final years of the Wenger era.
While it is too early to label Arsenal as title contenders, they already sit in fourth in the Premier League– just two points behind leaders Manchester City — and at least look capable of bagging a top four finish.
– Revitalised –
Qualifying for the Champions League would be a successful first season for Emery, and making a little history along the way would add lustre to his debut campaign.
For Arsenal to set a new club record for successive victories, they must beat Palace, then defeat Blackpool in the League Cup, Liverpool in the Premier League and Sporting in their European rematch.
Arsenal, who have lost only one of their last 17 meetings with Palace, have been revitalised since opening the season with a two-game losing run against Manchester City and Chelsea.
And Palace manager Roy Hodgson says Emery deserves praise for lifting Arsenal out of their rut so quickly.
“Emery has brought back that energy and quality of play that Arsene also had for many years. Certainly when he took the league by storm playing that type of football,” said Hodgson, whose side have lost their last three matches.
“He has started extremely well. I know a lot about him and his career, because I’ve followed his work, in particular at Sevilla and Paris Saint Germain, and I know what a good coach he is, and he’s proving that.
“Eleven straight wins is an incredible record; we’ve got to try and do our level best that they don’t make it 12, because we need the points.” —AFP