Sunday 15 December 2019

Where it all went wrong for Unai Emery at Arsenal

A look at where the Spaniard came up short since taking over from Arsene Wenger.

Unai Emery was unable to take Arsenal back into the Champions League after replacing Arsene Wenger in the dugout. (Nigel French/PA)
Unai Emery was unable to take Arsenal back into the Champions League after replacing Arsene Wenger in the dugout. (Nigel French/PA)

By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA

Unai Emery’s tenure at Arsenal has come to an end after just 18 months.

The former Valencia, Sevilla and Paris St Germain coach took over from Arsene Wenger in May 2018.

Emery, though, could not take the Emirates Stadium club back into the Champions League after finishing fifth last season and then losing the Europa League final against Chelsea.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the targets Emery failed to achieve, which cost him his job following a run of seven games without a win.

Get back into the Champions League

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Emery took Arsenal to the Europa League final last season, only to lose to Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

After 19 consecutive seasons in the continent’s elite competition, Wenger’s final campaign saw Arsenal compete in the Europa League after falling out of the Premier League top four. The Gunners would have been hoping it would prove a one-off, but Emery’s first year was also spent in the second-tier tournament, a competition he won three years in a row while at Sevilla, and returning the club to the Champions League was key if he were to be deemed a success. The Spaniard came very close, finishing a point behind the top four and losing the Europa League final to Chelsea – but a third season in the tournament, with no suggestion of progression, will not have helped Emery’s cause.

Sort out the defence

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David Luiz was one of a number of recruits signed to improve Arsenal at the back (Nick Potts/PA)

Wenger’s side conceded more than their top-six rivals in his last two Premier League games at the helm and the back line was identified as the main area requiring an overhaul after the Frenchman’s departure. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno, as well as defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz have been added to the squad since Emery’s appointment, but the defensive problems have persisted.

Improve record against ‘top-six’ opposition

  • Played: 24
  • Won: 0
  • Drawn: 9
  • Lost: 15
  • Goals for: 26
  • Goals against: 54
  • Points: 9 (from a possible 72)

That porous rearguard has meant addressing a miserable head-to-head record against Arsenal’s main Premier League rivals. While the odd good result against such foes at the Emirates Stadium have been notable highs – including wins over Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United in Emery’s maiden season – the away record is an aberration. Since a 2-0 victory at Manchester City in January 2015, Arsenal’s record in Premier League away games against City, Spurs, United, Chelsea and Liverpool is appalling – they have won none of the last 24 games, losing 15 and drawing nine. That record spans the last years of Wenger’s tenure as well as Emery’s first season and the start of the current campaign and highlights just how deep-rooted the issue is.

Address away form in general

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Lys Mousset’s goal gave Sheffield United a famous win over the Gunners at Bramall Lane in October (Danny Lawson/PA)

It is not only against the sides considered their immediate rivals where Arsenal have come unstuck in recent years. Their general away record has been one of relegation candidates rather than top-four contenders for some time. Victory at Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season was Emery’s only success on the road so far this season. A 2-0 defeat at a rejuvenated Leicester before the international break again highlighted how far off the pace the Gunners had dropped. Having overseen seven away wins last year (compared to four in Wenger’s last year) it seemed the Spaniard had found a solution – but abject displays at Liverpool and Sheffield United, as well as surrendering a two-goal lead to draw at bottom club Watford, now suggest otherwise.

Unite the fanbase

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A young fan made his feelings known during a Europa League group game against Vitoria (Nigel French/PA)

This was arguably the hardest task facing Emery. He was afforded goodwill before a ball had been kicked under his stewardship, especially by the growing number of supporters who had been calling for Wenger’s head for some time. A 22-match unbeaten run during the 2018/19 season helped but also masked a number of issues within the side and cracks began to appear with supporters growing weary of Emery’s tactical approach. This season it has become worse, banners already emerging and Twitter hashtags trending calling for ‘Emery Out’ while the team have been jeered off on more than one occasion as those who defend the former Paris St Germain boss start to be shouted over. The decision to appoint Granit Xhaka as captain only caused further unrest, as did the fallout from the Switzerland midfielder’s high-profile spat with the Gunners supporters after he was hauled off against Crystal Palace – another game which saw Emery’s side throw away a winning position.

PA Media

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