When Arsenal signed Unai Emery to replace a highly respected club figure in Arsene Wenger, there was a cloud of optimism all over the Spaniard’s appointment. Three consecutive Europa League victories with Sevilla, league titles with PSG and one could easily say Arsenal were appointing someone who knew had to win – or at least had a track record of it.
If there was room for further optimism, his words during his appointment were ones to make Arsenal fans more positive and relish the journey with the new man at the helm of affairs.
“Now is the time for us to turn a new page and look forward with confidence. There’s a special feeling here and we need to recapture this and push this club forward.”
But fast forward 18 months and the feeling is that Emery has failed to deliver on some of the promises that he dished out during that same press conference. Overall, there’s a growing sense that Emery’s days in north London are already numbered.
After guiding Arsenal to fifth in the Premier League and the Europa League final last season – it doesn’t matter what happened in the final, at least they got there – Emery had an “okay” maiden season at his new club with ‘Wenger’s squad’. At least that was the defence some fans put in for the Spaniard not to have achieved further.
However, after an aggressive transfer window that saw record-signing Nicolas Pepe arrive at the club along with Real Madrid’s Dani Ceballos (on loan) and Celtic hero Kieran Tierney, many expected that this Arsenal team would show signs of reaching the ‘next-step’, whatever that step might be.
But, despite their personnel and overall talent improving, under Emery, Arsenal don’t look set to really improve anytime. In fact, statistics show Arsenal have even regressed under Emery and as far-fetched as it may seem, the Gunners were not this bad even in the darkest of days for Arsene Wenger.
Stats showing Arsenal have only gotten worse under Emery
Arsenal’s unconvincing away form has been a major issue for a while and their travel sickness was the main reason for last season’s top-four failure. Despite having the third-best home record in the Premier League, seven teams bettered Arsenal’s away efforts in 2018-19.
This season, Arsenal have won three and drawn one of their four homes games but won only one of their five away matches.
Including the final five games of last season, Arsenal have been beaten in half of their last ten away matches, taking 11 points from a possible 30. Should such form continue the club’s long-awaited return to the Champions League may be prolonged further.
Over-reliance on Aubameyang
Although David Luiz’s recent winner against Bournemouth proved to be the exception to the rule, generally speaking Arsenal only tend to win in the Premier League this season if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been on the score sheet. Aubameyang has scored seven of Arsenal’s 13 league goals this season, accounting for 54% of their overall total. Only Norwich City are more reliant on their leading marksman with Teemu Pukki’s six goals making up 60% of their ten.
Arsenal’s over-reliance on Aubameyang is a major issue considering their lack of goals from elsewhere. At this stage last season, Arsenal had scored 22 times – nine more than their current tally – with ten different scorers compared to only six this term (Skysports). In recent years, Arsenal’s glaring weakness has been at the back, but at present even their attack isn’t functioning particularly effectively.
There’s the issue of the set-piece vulnerability and the stat below simply summarizes it all.
22 – Arsenal have conceded 22 Premier League goals from set-pieces since the start of last season; only Watford (25) and Everton (24) have conceded more. Weakness. pic.twitter.com/5k0jVkbUZJ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 21, 2019
The list is endless and while it would be rather harsh for Arsenal to give Emery the sack before the end of the season, the reality is that things have not gotten any better and Arsenal must now keep an eye out for potential replacements.
Should things get worse and Arsenal decide to give Emery the cold treatment “whenever”, let’s take a look at the top candidates in pole position to lead the Gunners back to their famous identity.
It’s acceptable to lose and even go on a bad run of form, but to lose the whole identity of the club as a whole is utterly devastating. Arsenal look clueless under Emery and literally don’t have an “identity”. Wenger could lose three games in a row but you’ll see Arsenal stuck with their style of football and maintained what they were known for. Imagine seeing a Barcelona side suddenly whipping in long balls and looking to play on the counter.
It’s safe to say that even if they win games with that pattern, there’ll still be some sort of outrage for ruining the club’s “style of play and blueprint”.
In no particular order, these men could see themselves in the Gunners hot-seat if Emery is given the opposite cold treatment.
Former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is perhaps one of the most decorated coaches without a job right now. The 52-year-old Italian has been linked with the Gunners in recent weeks and is a big candidate for the Arsenal job. Being a serial winner at Juventus, Allegri has a ruthless approach to getting results and that decisiveness from a coach would be highly beneficial to an Arsenal side boasting a manger with no “defined” tactics at the moment.
However, Arsenal will not be without competition as the likes of United and Chelsea are also rumoured to be in line for Allegri’s services and a report has even claimed he prefers the United job who will probably give him more spending power than the Gunners.
Earlier this month, Freddie Ljungberg emerged as a potential candidate for the Arsenal job.
Ljungberg knows what Arsenal’s all about. He spent a glittering career in north London, becoming a key player under Wenger as the club won the Premier League in 2004 without losing a game.
He’s popular, too. Teenager Bukayo Saka was full of praise for the Swede recently, saying
“It helps me so much having Freddie on the training pitch. Sometimes when the manager is trying to communicate with me I don’t understand what he is saying and Freddie speaks better English.
Arsenal fans should be careful what they wish for, however.
Sentiment has seen football clubs come calling for former flames with mixed success over the years.
Solskjaer is under pressure at Manchester United, just 10 months after he swaggered into town as Jose Mourinho’s replacement and Sir Alex Ferguson 2.0. It didn’t work for Alan Shearer at Newcastle in 2009. He was brought in to keep them up but couldn’t manage to do it.
Frank Lampard at Chelsea, Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola are examples where the tactic has worked well. But for each success story there’s a failure.
It’s looking like a trend now for former players to come back and ply their trade with their darling club.
Earlier this month, yet another Arsenal legend in Patrick Viera revealed that he would one day love to return to the Emirates Stadium to coach his former team.
The ex-France midfielder was a lynchpin of the Gunners team that lifted the Premier League title in 2003-04 as the ‘Invincibles’, having finished the duration of the campaign undefeated.
Vieira impressed last term on the Cote d’Azur as he put together a competitive side that narrowly missed out on Europe, despite limited resources and, with more money to spend this summer, appears to have constructed a unit capable of making a similar push.
Based on passion and everything else, Viera fits the job but based on his pedigree as a whole, the Gunners might not want to take a gamble on him just yet.
This right here is the man that got away. Arsenal fans scoffed at the thought of Arteta being head coach when he initially surfaced as one of the top candidates to replace Arsene Wenger after he left the club. If the hands of time could go back, Arsenal fans would welcome him at the club as it stands and give him special treatment.
Overlooked a lot but Arteta has been a huge part of Pep’s success at City and has been an influential figure since he arrived at City. Arteta was promoted to Guardiola’s assistant last year and has been pivotal in City lifting five domestic trophies over the past two seasons.
The former Arsenal midfielder is considered one of the rising stars in coaching and recently revealed that he opted against the Newcastle job over the summer.