Over the years, Arsenal have made a name for themselves as the darling attackers of English football with their entertaining style of play. Based on their consistency in recent times, the Gunners have been one of the sides that made up the traditional top four teams – the “big boys” in the League. However, the current extra competitive nature of the English Premier League has now seen that top four dominance spread to a broader top-six battle.
While the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool have claimed the first two exclusive spots for themselves, it’ll be hard to imagine that Arsenal can’t currently make a claim as part of the top-six clubs. However, in the wake of recent events brewing from the past couple seasons, there is every reason to say that the Gunners have taken a huge fall from grace and it wouldn’t even be an exaggeration to say Arsenal are no longer a top-six side, never mind a top-four one.
Sadly, it all tallies with the presence of a certain Spaniard – Unai Emery.
When Arsenal appointed the 48-year-old manager, they were bringing in a manager with a track record of domestic and European titles, one that was supposed to be the man to lead the Gunners back to glory in the post-Wenger era.
The reverse has been the case as Arsenal seem to be in a much worse situation currently than when Unai Emery joined – not just on the pitch but off it as well.
Things are looking uglier than ever at the Emirates Stadium. There’s the obvious fact of the Gunners being on a five-game stretch without a win, Granit Xhaka leading the controversy off the pitch, and now a recent report from the Athletic has claimed Aubameyang (the replacement after Xhaka was stripped of the armband) is also a doubt for the leadership role among the Arsenal hierarchy.
Everything at Arsenal right now is looking like an unmitigated disaster. On Saturday, the Gunners slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Leicester City in what felt like a seminal moment. They’re no longer in the upper echelons of the Premier League. If anything at all, Saturday was the day Arsenal’s reputation as a top-six side seemed like a distant shadow of a claim.
Prior to the Leicester game, a good number of Arsenal fans were so certain the team were losing on the evening. What happened to the club? Unai Emery and Arsenal were supposed to be the bigger names – on paper at least. Even during Leicester’s title-winning season, the Gunners under then-manager Arsene Wenger were the only side to do the double over the Foxes. The North London outfit could still raise a hand in top-six discussions. Right now, it’s all in the past.
Arsenal were almost as bad under Wenger, but there was still a sense of expectation from the fans and neutrals alike. As it stands, no one expects much from the Gunners going into “any” fixture.
For three consecutive years now, the Gunners haven’t played in the Champions League (BBC) and nothing right now indicates they’ll return to Europe’s elite competition anytime soon.
In the Europa League last season, they had a shot to get into the UCL by winning the final. But what did they do instead? They got played off the park by Chelsea. And the season before that, they lost in the semi-finals.
This year, they’re arguably a worse team with much bigger issues: Granit Xhaka, for instance as earlier mentioned, and yet they’re going to win the Europa League this time around and get back to the Champions League? Highly unlikely.
While it’s true that only four teams from England qualify for the Champions League, so inevitably two teams will miss out, but it’s called the “top-six” because any of them can finish top four any year. However, Arsenal are on a consistent run of not finishing in the top four.
After losing to Leicester, it was simply assumed that Unai Emery will get sacked during the international break, a move welcomed and appreciated by many fans. Yet the board seems to think otherwise and it was recently reported that Emery has the full backing of the Arsenal top guns until the end of the season at least.
Arsenal cannot attract the “big dogs” anymore
In recent weeks, some top manager names in Jose Mourinho, Massimiliano Allegri, and Luis Enrique to name a few have been linked with the club as possible Emery replacements. But if we’re being realistic, would these managers find the role of Arsenal head coach appealing? Probably not.
Arsenal right now cannot attract the top managers in the world. Regardless, they shouldn’t even try to. Perhaps what’s needed now isn’t a top manager to fine-tune a team – they need a manager who can rebuild without many resources.
Arsenal instead should consider going after names like Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe, or Chris Wilder. They have built clubs in the Championship or from the bottom of the Premier League and gotten promoted or turned them into solidly mid-table teams. Those guys have done what Arsenal need, the only difference being Arsenal are starting at a higher position in the table.
Without the Champions League and the money it brings and without a top-quality manager, it’s almost an insurmountable task to attract top tier talent. Sure, club-record signing Nicolas Pepe joined this past summer, but did super clubs really fawn over his signature? Not so much.
When needing to shore up the defence this season, who did Arsenal buy? David Luiz. The most terrifying defender to watch, not play against. Bar his winning goal against Bournemouth, Luiz has done more bad than good in Arsenal colours and with him every week, you never really know what to expect.
That’s the red side of London right now, unable to bring in top-quality players. No one world-class player has Arsenal on their mind as a possible destination.
Without top players, a top manager, and Champions League football, Arsenal must take on the difficult task of rebuilding the club from the inside. They can take a cue from Chelsea and see that with the proper execution, it could come out good in the end. And it will take time. Fans may find it a tough, albeit a necessary pill to swallow.
Bringing in a manager is the first step. Edu, the technical director who started this past summer, has to find the right manager and then work on bringing in quality players on a budget that fit with the manager and the academy players breaking into the first team.