Unai Emery accepts fans' frustration at misfiring Arsenal
Arsenal supporters will have to be patient as Unai Emery seeks development "little by little" ahead of Thursday's Europa League game.
Unai Emery has acknowledged fan criticism but insists the characterisation of Arsenal as tentative and unadventurous is inaccurate. The Gunners lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday night, squandering a chance to go third in the Premier League. The defeat followed an uninspiring and nervy 1-0 win over Bournemouth before the international break.
Arsenal, just 13 goals from nine games
Despite spending a club-record sum on Nicolas Pépé in the pre-season, Arsenal have scored the fewest goals of all bar one team - Crystal Palace - in the Premier League's top seven. Thursday's home meeting with Europa League opponents Vitória Guimarães presents a chance for a heavily scrutinised squad to find fluency and ease the pressure on their head coach.
"In my career, it's normal to have criticism of our work in the difficult moments, of my job, our team, the players," Emery explained on the eve of the game. "On one hand, we have the supporters and their opinion, and we need to accept that. My focus is improving in the next match, seeing how we can improve on things. Also, it's how we can, little by little, get ahead, doing our steps in that way, progressing and achieving our immediate target. That's winning tomorrow [Thursday]. We are at the beginning of this season and we have won two matches playing very well in this competition, with very good results.
He continued: "We lost a very big opportunity in the Premier League on Monday to be third in the table. We are now fifth, so we have another chance on Sunday [at home to Palace]. We know we can improve and we need to improve, so we have to get better in our way. The most important thing is the team and the club, also that our objective is clear. We are at the beginning and I am very confident. I have belief in the players, in our work, the club's strategy, in every player and in our way with our job."
Reiss Nelson, the only absentee in Emery's Arsenal squad
Rob Holding joined Emery at the pre-match news conference, a sign he is set to return to the starting XI after watching from the bench at Bramall Lane alongside Kieran Tierney. Héctor Bellerín was missing from the matchday squad entirely, but Emery shifted the focus away from individuals as he stressed a commitment to developing an attacking Arsenal.
"I don't want to achieve the best performance only with one system or with the same four players," he said. "In the Europa League we are using different players and they are also improving our defensive moment. It's for all the players. Above all, I want to continue to be an offensive team, but improve defensively. Our mentality is to be offensive. I am going to get that balance little by little."