Unai Emery is sewing the seeds of change at Arsenal as he seeks to drag club into the future

Squad rotation has been one of the standout features of Unai Emery’s fledgling reign and one of the areas where his methods most diverge from his predecessor.

Given its relative success so far, it will be interesting to see if the Spaniard continues in the same vein or whether he looks to establish a more settled starting XI as he learns about his players and the teams they will face.

Arsene Wenger was very much a man of consistency and would seldom stray from his favoured starting XI, whether other squad members had impressed in other competitions or not. He had a Premier League team, a Europa League team, and a cup team, and those lines were seldom blurred if he could help it.

The sense of complacency that created was, in the final few seasons of the Wenger era, one of the reasons why the club stagnated and, ultimately, went into reverse, as players grew too comfortable and opponents too wise to our setup.

That’s not to say there is no merit in a stable starting XI. If naught else, it allows for partnerships to blossom and for momentum to build.

Where Emery has found success in that difficult balance is in the timing and effectiveness of his changes. The introductions of Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Fulham last weekend were a case in point.

Both players were kept out of the starting side by colleagues who had shown good form in other competition, to the surprise of many. However, both were brought on to devastating effect in the second half as Emery pushed for the win.

And that is by no means an isolated case.

We’ve also seen countless half-time changes in recent weeks, with tactical tinkering, and subtle switches to boot.

Nobody’s position in the side is sacred and no change is too soon or too radical.

It has been a surprising change of tact, but an undeniably effective one for all that.

One wonders if there’s more than simple instinct at play here, whether the manager is so replete with facts and figures from his research that he is able to slot players in and out of his teams based on the opposition or the way the game is panning out, drawing on the data available to him about, say, stamina, speed, or aerial battles won.

It’s an intriguing thought and, even if only a fraction of the assumption is true, it represents a real paradigm shift from the Wenger era, in which changes were made reactively and typically late in the game.

Where the Frenchman seemed to rely on his gut instinct and feel for the flow of the game, Emery seems to arrive armed with an abundance of information upon which he can draw.

If that is truly the case, one suspects we will continue to see more of the same in the months ahead, with players coming in and out of the starting line up, and brought on and off at a stroke.

Whether everyone in the squad is happy with that way of working is another matter but, while the sun is shining, it’s hard to see any dissenters breaking ranks to criticise the manager’s modus operandi.

Egalitarianism is the new kid on the block at Arsenal and, thus far, what a breath of fresh air it has been.

Whether it continues to be as successful against the league’s better sides is a question for another day but none can argue with the success it has achieved to date, even if flaws remain in how we play.

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