Unai Emery has exceeded all expectations in his debut season at Arsenal, says John Hartson, with few tipping Arsene Wenger’s successor to make such an immediate impression.
Back in the summer of 2018, those at Emirates Stadium braced themselves for a first managerial change in 22 years.
In many ways, the Gunners were entering the unknown after more than two decades under the guidance of the iconic French coach.
Emery did, however, arrive with considerable experience picked up from spells at the likes of Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain and quickly saw his side embark on a 22-game unbeaten run.
There has been the odd wobble since then, but Arsenal are in the Premier League’s top four and through to the last eight in European competition following a battling victory over Rennes.
After witnessing the 3-0 win against their Ligue 1 opposition, former Gunners striker Hartson told BT Sport: “Well they’re in the quarter-final of the Europa League, where they’ve got an opportunity, if they do win it, of getting in the Champions League.
“They’re in prime position, it’s in their own hands in terms of they’re currently fourth.
“So it’s in their own hands in terms of qualifying for the top four.
“Who would have thought it at the start of the season with replacing Arsene Wenger?
“Yes, he came in and had a great career in terms of what he did at Sevilla.
“But I think the Arsenal fans will be delighted with the job he’s doing right now.”
Arsenal’s only defeats in their last nine games have come in the first legs of Europa League ties in which they have ultimately prevailed.
They are finding a way to get the job done and former defender Martin Keown believes that is down to Emery now favouring an approach which partners Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in attack.
He said: “There’s an awful lot more possibilities when you’ve got two strikers. They occupy basically four defenders.
“Over the years, the last 10 years or so, that’s not been the case.
“These two have got tremendous pace. They love playing with one another, there’s almost a telepathic link up with them.
“They look for one another and they can finish when they get the opportunities.
“I’ve almost been frustrated. Emery has been a little bit reluctant to play these two together.”
With domestic football about to shut down for the international break, Arsenal are not due to be in action again until playing host to Newcastle on April 1.