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Unai Emery Defends Arsenal Record, Says Nicolas Pepe 'Needs Time to Adapt'

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2019

Arsenal's Spanish head coach Unai Emery gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Arsenal at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern England on October 21, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /  (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Unai Emery has defended his record as the club's manager following the side's inconsistent start to the season.

While the Gunners have showcased flashes of exciting attacking play in 2019-20, they've struggled in a number of matches too. On Monday, they slipped to a 1-0 loss to Sheffield United in the Premier League, missing the chance to move up to third place.

The result was clearly disappointing for the Gunners, but Arsenal fans would have been just as concerned about the nature of the display, as they rarely threatened against the newly promoted team.

Emery has faced criticism but defended the job he's done so far prior to the team's UEFA Europa League showdown with Vitoria Guimaraes on Thursday, per Sam Dean of the Daily Telegraph:

"Sometimes we forget the memory and we need to remember. When I arrived, this team needed to be more competitive. Arsenal, in their history, were winning 1-0 and being very competitive, but it was not enough.

"Then [they went through] the process of being competitive and with improved creativity. When I arrived here, the creativity was more or less good, but being competitive was worse. It was not enough.

"I think last year I started to improve being competitive, also with some very good matches playing with creativity. This year we are in that process, but also with patience because our strategy as a club is [using] some new players and young players."

Emery added that while different sections of the fanbase want to see more "creativity" or more "intensity," he wants to see "both" from his players.

Mark Mann-Bryans of the Press Association picked up on the emotion with which Emery spoke in the press conference:

Mark Mann-Bryans @MarkyMBryans

Most passionate Emery has ever been today. Came in and was clearly a little fired up from the start.... A lot of his answers were still a little rambling but hammered home his points, whether you agree with them or not. #AFC

Emery also commented on summer signing Nicolas Pepe, who has yet to find his stride since making the move to the Emirates Stadium, noting the manner in which Fabinho has thrived at Liverpool following a slow start.

"Pepe needs time to adapt," Emery said. "For example, in France I loved Fabinho a lot. He was at Monaco and I wanted to sign him for PSG. When I arrived here, his name was on the table to sign him, but he signed for Liverpool. The first six months he did not play. It was adaptation."

Per James McNicholas of The Athletic, Pepe endured another mixed evening when Arsenal lost to Sheffield United:

gunnerblog @gunnerblog

Pepe had some scintillating moments in the first half but if he’s the best corner taker we have then we might as well give up.

Arsenal and Emery need a win to lift spirits on Thursday. Per James Benge of Football.London, fans were left disillusioned by Monday's display and the manager's post-match comments:

James Benge @jamesbenge

Arsenal managed one shot on target in the box against a newly-promoted team last night. Kudos to Sheffield United, but that is an utterly embarrassing output from a side with such attacking talent. Emery trying to claim Arsenal deserved anything else was utter nonsense.

Emery will likely make sweeping changes for the Guimaraes game, as the team are big favourites for the encounter and sitting pretty at the top of Group F with two wins from two games.

On Sunday, Arsenal will welcome Crystal Palace to the Emirates, a fixture in which they were beaten last season. Anything other that a victory in that match and you sense Emery will be under significant pressure.

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