Shkodran Mustafi says manager Unai Emery has brought a level of tactical detail to Arsenal that was not present under predecessor Arsene Wenger.
Wenger stepped down as Arsenal boss after 22 years in May, having endured growing criticism and supporter hostility for his perceived limitations as a tactician and a coach, as well as for the Gunners’ underwhelming transfer record.
Emery has overcome a difficult start to lead Arsenal on a 14-match unbeaten run in all competitions, presiding over some thrilling football in the process, and Mustafi admitted he particularly appreciates his new manager’s meticulous style.
“For me personally the biggest thing was that he is someone who really knows what he wants from each player,” Mustafi said of Emery’s impact in a press conference to preview Arsenal’s clash with Portuguese giants Sporting in the Europa League. “He tells you exactly what he wants you to do, but at the same time he gives you freedom.
“When we don’t have the ball he tells you exactly where to stand and how to get the ball from the opponent… it is a good mix between freedom but still very disciplined and having the same plan in the whole team, and that is what we saw especially against Liverpool.
“I think we are very good attacking and that makes the defensive work easier. We are pressing higher up the pitch and that is making it easier to defend. And while we are attacking we are trying to prepare to be in the right positions.”
Arsenal lie fifth in the Premier League after 11 matches, six points behind leaders Manchester City and just one point off a top-four place. They are also progressing well in the Europa League, having won all of their opening three matches to surge clear of Sporting at the top of Group E.
One more victory will be enough to all-but secure their place in the knockout stage, but Emery insisted that his team will not underestimate Sporting. The Portuguese giants have also made a positive start to the new campaign under Jose Peseiro, who replaced Sinisa Mihajlovic when the Serb was sensationally sacked just nine days after being appointed in June.
“They have very good players,” Emery said. “They changed the coach but it’s a very big match for them in their thinking about getting the first position [in the group].
“We will go into the game with big respect for them.”
Arsenal will be without Nacho Monreal (hamstring), who has returned to training with the squad but will not be risked against Sporting. Summer signing Konstantinos Mavropanos also remains sidelined with a groin problem, while there is still no return date set for Laurent Koscielny as the club captain continues his recovery from a torn Achilles sustained in May.