Arsenal Fitness Revolution Yielding Results
Arsenal covered the eighth-highest distance in the league last season. This lack of effort in closing opponents down and tracking back to defend lead to many poor results, especially away from home.
Among the reasons for this poor showing was the team’s poor pressing. Often, the players would not coordinate their movements off the ball, resulting in lone attackers attempting to close down an entire back line.
The fact that the writing was on the wall for Arsène Wenger didn’t help either. It is difficult for players to work hard for a manager they know won’t be around long, and Arsenal suffered for it last season.
However, these problems have reversed under Emery.
During his first press conference at the club, Unai Emery said:
“I want to win. The performances, every day, for work on attacking, defending, is to be competitive each match. My first idea is getting better day-to-day with our players and working hard with our players, to transmit my ideas.”
Part of Emery’s magic has been hard work with the players every day. While this is not a radical or new idea, the Arsenal fitness revolution is heavily dependent on this ethic.
The Gunners are the hardest-working club in the Premier League this season. Through the 3-1 win over Leicester, the team covers an average of 112.59 km each match and makes 120.5 sprints, both best in the division.
While this trend has shown itself all season, the draw against Liverpool really emphasized how effective the Arsenal fitness revolution has been. Jürgen Klopp’s men are already known to work extremely hard and cover great distances each match.
However, the Reds could not match the Gunners’ work ethic and were nearly ran off the pitch.
Going from a mid-table side in terms of work ethic to out-running Liverpool is a major change, worthy of the term revolution.
Revolution or Evolution?
Emery’s juice ban has, somewhat facetiously, been credited in a small way for this change. While it has probably helped, the £30m investment in the new Player Performance Centre has had much more effect.
Such investments into the fitness levels of the squad are not unique to Arsenal. Manchester City invested some £200m into a new training facility and academy and Tottenham opened their new Accommodation Lodge over the summer.
Clubs, in general, are looking for any advantage they can get over their opponents, and sharpening their players’ fitness levels is one of the most effective ways.
So, this new Arsenal fitness revolution is perhaps not nearly as radical as the Wenger revolution over twenty years ago. Rather, it is an evolution of a club leaving behind the shackles which held it back from progressing.
Now those shackles are off and this new Arsenal look far more capable of challenging the top clubs. A return to the top four looks possible this season for the Gunners, and much of the credit must be given to Unai Emery.
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