Unai Emery Departs With A Grace Not Echoed By His Arsenal Team’s Displays

Sacked head coach issues statement through club website

Unai Emery Departs With A Grace Not Echoed By His Arsenal Team’s Displays

Emery – Wrong man, wrong time, wrong league

Fair play to Unai Emery. He departed the club with dignity and warm words. No indication of any hard feelings. The man himself doubtless knew the game was up, but few managers walk these days if there is a pay-off for getting dismissed. Daniel Levy spent time in the week before Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking trying to persuade Poch to resign. So we had the slow tortuous ending, culminating in the first home defeat of the season in front of a sub-20,000 crowd at the Emirates.

Emery was vilified and received unnecessary personal abuse for his failure to revive Arsenal’s fortunes. And as a coach, there is no question that he failed at Arsenal. That he came so close to but fell short of achieving the club’s ambitions last season was not down to poor luck, but poor defending. And yes, there were personal errors and bad decisions, but ultimately, too many for the blame not to fall at the feet of the man picking the side and issuing the tactics. It seemed obvious after the 2018-19 campaign had concluded in Baku that this was not going to change, and yet Raul Sanllehi wanted to give his compatriot a contract extension.

The media are briefing that Sanllehi is the reason that Emery lasted as long this season as he did, and now the former’s stock is low. Emery should have been put out of his misery in the summer, but there was a mistaken belief that new players would lead to improved results. Out went Koscielny, Monreal, Jenkinson and Lichtsteiner. In came David Luiz and Kieran Tierney, with Calum Chambers returning from loan and Bellerin and Holding eventually returning from injury. Calamitous goals were conceded, leads sacrificed and points dropped.

The head coach’s players did not seem to understand what he wanted, or if they did, it looked like Emery wanted chaos. It felt like there was so much different instruction, it concluded with the players looking anything like a team. It had to end, and thank goodness we can all move on. Emery though, is a decent human being, who can certainly be criticized for his tactics and lack of consistency, but who always behaved impeccably. Sadly, this was not reflected in the performances of his players.

Freddie Ljungberg is in charge for the short term, and one hopes to see a new manager bounce with a fresh approach to match preparation. It has been reported that he does not have enough coaching badges to manage the first team for more than three months, although apparently he is actually fully qualified. The players lacked spirit, belief and organization in recent matches, and this will be the first thing that Ljungberg needs to address. Norwich on Sunday suddenly becomes the most fascinating match of the season so far for Gooners. As the players involved on Thursday did not do a training session yesterday, Freddie will not have long to do anything substantive before his first game in charge.

The club are sounding out possible replacements and my personal choice (of the available options) would be Allegri for the reason that I believe he can re-introduce defensive solidity to the team. The Italian would take the job for three reasons – a generous salary, the opportunity to compete in the Premier League, and living in London. However, he may not be so impressed by a relative lack of funds and little chance of Champions League football until 2021. But fans should not underestimate the draw of managing in the Premier League to foreign managers, such is its profile. It’s possible, although Allegri may well choose to enjoy the rest of his year off and will be in demand in the summer.

What Arsenal need to be wary of is giving Ljungberg an extended deal if he has a good first two months in the job, but wait until the end of the season. They need to learn from the experience of Manchester United with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Ljungberg though, has a chance to establish his credentials, and we will find out how good he (or someone he brings in) is at organizing a side not to give away cheap goals. It is to be hoped that his team play to their strengths more than Emery’s did.

The Emery reign will not be recalled fondly, and his inability to master communicating well in the English language will always be the subject of ridicule. With hindsight, he should have used a translator for his first season (as Mauricio Pochettino did at Southampton), and worked on his English with a native speaker so that his pronunciation of words was much better. Because ultimately, it does seem like his ability to communicate with his players was compromised, with instruction not always clear. Put it this way, the way the side played suggested the plan was not always clear, and that it changed from game to game. After an encouraging first few months, the players seemed to lose faith in what Emery was doing.

The 2018-19 season was one of big changes at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger had departed, and during the season two of the men that agreed to appoint Emery also left – Ivan Gazidis and Sven Mislintat. The process of overhauling the playing staff began in the summer of 2018 and continued a year later. It wasn’t a solid base for development and the job was going to be difficult for any experienced coach, not least one who was not familiar with the Premier League nor the language.

However, although the club has seen a long period of decline, this isn’t terminal. Football moves in cycles. Granted, Arsenal could be in an entirely different section of the curve if they’d made less emotional decisions in 2014 when they decided to continue with Arsene Wenger. There were occasions during which they could have secured either of Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp to come to north London. The conservatism of the board and the owner saw the club wait another four years before finally realizing Arsene was never going to return the glory days of his first decade, and Emery came in to try and pick up the pieces. Fans, myself included, were heady with the change, believing his remarkable succession of European trophies at Sevilla could be translated to Arsenal, even if it would take a couple of years. Deeper analysis would have established that his teams habitually conceded too many goals, which is exactly what transpired. Fair play to the man for upholding a decent record in Europe. Arsenal made the final of the Europa League last season, beating some decent enough teams to get there. Sadly, the final was a foretaste of things to come this season in terms of the way his team seemed to collapse in the second half.

At least, with Freddie as an interim manager, things get interesting again, and there will be a bigger crowd next Thursday for the home match v Brighton, although there will still be a significant number of no shows. Were Emery still in charge, it wouldn't have been many more than against Eintracht Frankfurt, and that is why the club had to act. Empty seats are damning, and only good football and results will bring people back. Here’s hoping.


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  1. itsRonagain2

    Dec 01, 2019, 9:49 #115676

    Marky. They’ve admitted themselves they were considering his sacking weeks ago. With respect, yr naive with yr view. In football in particular wheels within wheels applies. People are sounded out all of the time. Football is a very tiny community. Everybody knows who’s happy where and who is ripe for approaches. Even club owners and directors are quite open with other clubs about whether their man is approachable. Loki hood is that Emery was being considered for the sack last Summer. Yet here we are , sacked and clueless about who follows. Arsenal’s management is dire. In orher walks of life it’s the same. I’ve had 35 years in large. Medium and tiny business management inc 17 tuning my own. When you re deciding to lose yr key people you have and have to have to pretty precise idea on what follows. Football is more haphazard, granted but it’s more a business than a sport and has been for 25 yrs. putting all this aside anyway it’s clear Emery has been stabbed in the back there. The club’s mediocre players and low grade staff have simply downed on the man , cut him apart and undermined him. The club have given into it instead of adressing it and cutting out the malignant parts of the club’s structure. It’s happened because it’s ownerd by some one with no presence there and no hand in the tiller. Emery scwell out of that den if thrives it appears to me. I hope he goes on to excel elsewhere. As for these narrow minded dumb oafs who can only offer critiques of his language and his efforts to speak English, the club has its interpreters as its supposedly been a cosmopolitan multi national club for years. All the emphasis on that is cheap paper talk designed to belittle him. The c—-ts ought to go abroad and try working. It’s very difficult and needs the host business and staff to help you through it. It’s clear that’s not happened with Emery. Instead , the moronic players have chosen the cheap option of sniggering and sneering behind the mans back. It’s pathetic though unsurprising with today’s shallow footballers and staff.

  2. markymark

    Dec 01, 2019, 8:29 #115673

    Ron - how many football clubs actually have a “We sack him , then we will get person X plan? All this in mid season . The answer is none . It’s a pretence that any club would have this in place. It means the club will be touting to agents whilst their own manager may actually be on a successful run. The manager x then has to parachute right in when existing manager fails. No club wants to sack mid season . Arsenal probably spoke with Mourinho. The Spuds offered him 12m by some reports! Lap that up 12m ! That’s twice the going rate . If City lost Pépé now they’d be in shock and drop the role into Arteta they’d be no sudden grab of a tied in Manager elsewhere. This plan B stuff is just fallacy . You jump to either your deputy coach or nearest available. Arsenal are simply following established patterns of behaviour

  3. markymark

    Dec 01, 2019, 8:20 #115672

    6m a year , pretty reasonable youngsters , draw of working in London . I’m pretty sure we will get a good manager. Best not to rush in though . Freddie will probably have a bounce initially I suspect. When Chips retires and Josh takes over as chair. It’ll be no different to any other big club. Fenway are absent , Abramovich is absent , Joe Lewis is absent .The skill sets of how good they manage a club may vary of course. If the next Manager fouls up then Raul will go as well I’d imagine. Pedro on Le Grove is pushing the dysfunctional board and that Raul kept faith with Emery etc and it has gained some media traction. Pedro wants Arteta and sees Raul as blocking this. We will see. I generally think the papers recycle a lot of chatter simply to fill columns A change in Manager May well have a major positive impact .

  4. itsRonagain2

    Nov 30, 2019, 21:19 #115671

    Bard is spot on. They’ve sacked the Coach without any idea of who s going to follow him, unless there’s a deal done somewhere to be activated in May. That would be planning though. Very unlike this Board. Putting money to one side, there’s no emotional investment in the club by these owners. In that regard , they deserve a shambles of a team. The management of the team via this Raul guy and the coaches seems haphazard. I d hope that any new man would bring his own crew and that lot would go. They’re as much to blame as Dick and the Board/owner in my view. Llungberg and Edu are just token appointments, brought in to assuage the crowd. Jenas made a good point today in context of Poch when he said why would he want the N5 job when if he bides his time, there are some top Euro Clubs likely to offer him better in Summer. I get the feeling Rogers wdt feel right leaving Leics after 1 season either. Why wd he? His team are well ahead of Arsenal’s and his owners will invest in the team properly. You never know though. Arteta has a more emotional tie to Everton I’m sure and it’s the right size job for him. I don’t think Nuno has a CV to merit going to Arsenal, well as he’s done at Wolves. The thing is football has changed. Clubs are getting a lot more of the money and both players and Coaches are not easily poached now. It’s impossible to guess what Arsenal will do. They ll go cheap though. That’s for sure.

  5. Pauljames

    Nov 30, 2019, 18:18 #115670

    Will very interested to see Freddie’s team selection tomorrow, for me our best ( least bad ?) performers the other night were Martinelli, Willock and Sako. They should all start if Freddie means business , and I’d like to see Maitland-Niles given a run at right back ahead of Chambers and Bellerin, who’ve been awful. We really need to start giving the younger brigade a proper go in the Premier league.

  6. RobG

    Nov 30, 2019, 11:52 #115669

    I too would prefer a British based Manager. I don't think Rogers would come having not been at Leicester for a year. My choice would be Eddie Howe. Knows the Prem'. Is ambitious. Has taken Bournemouth as far as he can. Could be persuaded. It's a gamble. But every pick is. Allegri's CV is Stella ; but his English isn't. And he doesn't know the Prem from experience. We will see........

  7. hibeegunner

    Nov 30, 2019, 11:38 #115668

    I don’t think we will get a good manager until the board and the owner are out the door far to much in the way of politics going on especially with Raul if the press are to be believed. I would prefer a British manager with premier league experience. Brendon anyone?

  8. Bard

    Nov 30, 2019, 10:21 #115667

    Fair comment Kev. I fear we are much more dysfunctional than having a crap manager. I think a good manger will just cover up the mess further up. The board and the owner are useless. Until we have an engaged owner and a dynamic board we will continue to flounder. Dick went with dignity, although Im sure a few million quid eases the pain. I agree its an attractive job but the state of the team is a worry. We have no midfield to speak of, a terrible defence and no money. Good luck to whoever wants that mess