Huddersfield Town
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 By Ian Darke

Unai Emery seeks to restore Arsenal glory after Arsene Wenger's exit

New season, different mood music at Arsenal. And that will make the Gunners a fascinating watch in the early weeks of the coming Premier League campaign, which they begin with games against Manchester City and Chelsea.

Arsene Wenger's run as manager, which seemed to last longer in London than West End show "The Mousetrap," was ended by fan power. But will those supporters like Unai Emery's new regime any better?

The 46-year-old Spaniard delivered three Europa League titles at Sevilla, then mopped up five domestic trophies in two seasons at Paris Saint-Germain. However, that was not enough to save him in the French capital because he could not deliver the Champions League crown.

Arsenal under Emery will likely be a harder-working, fitter outfit, with any glory coming soaked in sweat. The new man in charge wants to add grit, fight and character to a team that sometimes went missing when they did not have the ball in Wenger's latter years.

Most regular watchers and ex-players would applaud Emery's mission. After all, last season saw Arsenal finish sixth -- their lowest position under Wenger -- and 37 points behind champions Manchester City. Danny Welbeck was the only Gunner in England's World Cup squad and he hardly played in Russia.

The theory is that Arsenal can rediscover their mojo if they can add perspiration to inspiration.

Signing Greece international central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Dortmund has been criticised in some quarters as a modest choice, but one trusted Bundesliga source told me: "Sokratis is tough, reliable and consistent. I think he will not let Arsenal down in any way."

Arsenal manager Unai Emery.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery.

Emery also raised eyebrows by bringing in veteran Swiss right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner from Juventus, where he won the title in all seven seasons he was there. He will bring a winning mentality to London.

Past his best? Possibly. But the 34-year-old, who loves to overlap, gives the impression of being as fit as a flea and it's doubtful if he has rolled up in North London simply as cover for Hector Bellerin.

Lucas Torreira, the busy Uruguay World Cup midfielder, is another expected to add more bite and there is a strong chance that Bernd Leno, after years of distinguished service at Bayer Leverkusen, could be preferred to both Petr Cech and David Ospina in goal.

However, if all this sounds like Arsenal are going to transform into a George Graham-style mean machine, then that would be wide of the mark. They still have the creativity of Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, as well as the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

Ozil's decision to stop playing for Germany following a troubled summer may be very much to his club's advantage. It might be that he will have a point to prove to his detractors and doubters.

Emery's realistic aim must be to make Arsenal a top four-team again and he has already made an impact, with Bellerin saying: "The training has gone up a notch for sure." That may be an understatement because there is little doubt things got too cosy under Wenger.

A season-opening showdown on Aug. 12 vs. a Man City side, which could be depleted or under-cooked due to many late returnees after World Cup duty, might offer clues as to what this new Arsenal are about.

It is hard to see them as title contenders, but expect Emery to give a tougher edge. Will his side be so easy on the eye? That is another matter. However, what does seem clear is that fans so keen to see the back of Wenger must give his successor time.

Ian Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, is ESPN's lead soccer voice in the U.S. Reach him on Twitter @IanDarke.


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