Neil Humphreys: Gunners’ Emery is the new Special One
Emery's just like the old Mourinho, winning players over to his philosophy
Unai Emery is turning into quite a plumber. He plugs leaks. Jose Mourinho, on the other hand, is turning into an incontinent dog in search of a tree. He leaks everywhere.
Recent events have highlighted two managers heading in opposite directions.
When they meet at Old Trafford tomorrow (Singapore time), the Manchester United manager could be forgiven for giving a wry smile when he greets the Arsenal coach.
Emery looks like a Special One. He looks like a young, vibrant manager dipped in positivity. He looks like the old Mourinho.
Their reactions to recent performances contrasted so sharply that even the most jaundiced of Red Devils must recognise the worrying differences between the two men.
At half-time, Arsenal were 2-1 down to Tottenham, thanks to a couple of dodgy Spurs goals. This was a common hard luck story under Arsene Wenger, another sorry example of the Gunners succumbing to a crisis of confidence.
Arsenal can't stop scoring. An astonishing 32 goals in 14 games is a rate not witnessed for over a decade at the club.Neil Humphreys
But Emery wasn't having it. He didn't hide beneath his oversized sports coat. The plumber went to work instead. He ransacked the toolbox and found Aaron Ramsey to plug a hole in midfield and sent Alexandre Lacazette to partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front.
Emery doubled down with a double substitution. He treated a tense derby like a playful shoot-out in a video arcade. Arsenal were told to take aim at every target. Don't hold back. Just keep shooting.
Their goal-fest was a treat for the senses, but it was no fluke. Eleven Gunners have already scored in the English Premier League this season.
Alex Iwobi speaks warmly of Emery's insistence that outfield players develop an eye for goal. Everyone brings shooting boots to training.
And it's working. Arsenal can't stop scoring. An astonishing 32 goals in 14 games is a rate not witnessed for over a decade at the club. After Manchester City, the Gunners are the only other team turning penalty boxes into pinball machines.
This isn't a coincidence either, but the reinforcement of Emery's longstanding philosophy. He's an incorrigible attacker. In his first season at Valencia, he added 20 goals in the plus column (the Spaniards finished with 68, compared to 48 in the previous campaign).
Sevilla went from a goal a game to almost two under his stewardship. Even Paris Saint-Germain, who need little encouragement to score in a one-team league, still found room for a few more in the Emery era.
In the North London Derby, the way he cajoled his players to surge forward at every opportunity - even when they were protecting a precarious 3-2 lead - was exhilarating.
Arsenal's ceaseless attacking was the antithesis of the dreary fare served up by Mourinho's static bollards against Southampton.
Unlike Emery, he didn't plug leaks. He reportedly leaked stories to the press instead. Another alleged bust-up with Paul Pogba, which came via a reporter with close ties to Mourinho's camp, suggested another cynically-timed distraction.
Mourinho supposedly branded Pogba "a virus" and the Frenchman apparently retaliated by claiming he had no one to pass to as his manager's stifling tactics prevented teammates from running freely.
Mourinho questioned the temperament of his players, again, and lamented the absence of "mad dogs" ready to fight for his cause.
Arsenal have one "mad dog", a real Spaniard in the works who loves nothing more than snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a couple of audacious substitutions. Just like the old Mourinho.
Emery nurtures strong characters like Lucas Torreira and improves previously flaky performers like Granit Xhaka. When they fall short of his exacting standards, they fall out of the first team. See Mesut Oezil.
The Spaniard has convinced his squad to become fully paid-up members of his methodology. Just like the old Mourinho.
The newer, jaded Mourinho doesn't have a methodology beyond antagonising his players, picking fights over real or imagined grudges and conducting media interviews with all the joy of a condemned prisoner on death row.
His players are struggling to buy into his bluster (let alone his soul-stripping defensiveness.) The proof is in the EPL table.
From last season to this, there's been a 26-point swing between Arsenal and United. The clubs, like their managers, are poles apart.
Still, the Gunners haven't triumphed at Old Trafford in the EPL since 2006. End that unwanted record and the Gunners will seriously believe in their Special One.
And Mourinho may once again be reminded of the inspirational manager he used to be.
Emery dreams of lifting EPL title with Arsenal
Arsenal produced their best display yet under Unai Emery in their 4-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, but the Spaniard said they would have to prove their mettle again in their trip to Manchester United tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
The Gunners defeated their North London rivals to go into fourth spot on goal difference, but Emery believes improving his team's away performance is vital if they are to continue their good form.
"If we're stronger now, we need to (show it) on Wednesday... It's a new match, a new challenge, a big challenge. It's away and we need to continue improving our mentality away," said Emery.
"We know we need to change to get more competitive away. I think the team are doing that, but it's Manchester United away, and the challenge is bigger than other matches.
"It's a very exciting match. The preparation for this match is also a big motivation for us. It gives me a big motivation for Wednesday."
Jose Mourinho's United side are struggling down in seventh place with 22 points after 14 games.
Arsenal's win over Tottenham extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 games and the fans have started to believe the club can win their first league crown since they lifted the title in the 2003-04 season under Arsene Wenger.
"I want to think about the possibility, maybe not this year, of a title with Arsenal," Emery added.
"The Premier League is the first competition for us, but the Europa League is exciting and we also have the League and FA Cups. It's about progress, improving and our demands."
Arsenal will be without midfielder Granit Xhaka, who is suspended for a match, while Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal are doubtful due to injuries.
German midfielder Mesut Oezil, who missed their last two matches reportedly due to a back injury, will be assessed. - REUTERS