Arsenal have confirmed that they have parted company with head coach Unai Emery.
The Spaniard has been relieved of his duties following Thursday evening’s 2-1 defeat to Europa League opponents Eintracht Frankfurt and after overseeing the Gunners worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1982/83.
In a statement released on Friday, Josh Kroenke said: “Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand. We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.”
Emery took over from Arsene Wenger in the summer of 2018 and was set the task of returning the club to the Champions League. A 22-game unbeaten run in the opening months of his tenure hinted at a promising future under the Spaniard, but things quickly turned sour. A spring-time collapse in the Premier League, sparked by questionable team selections, and the heavy defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League final provided a sobering finale to his first year in charge.
Backed by the board with big-money signings during the summer transfer window, Emery spoke bullishly in August about competing again for a top-four place. By mid-October Arsenal had climbed to third in the table, although increasingly stale performances led to the coach admitting that his players were feeling the pressure of expectation.
In the last two months, Arsenal have been awful, mustering just one win in nine games. A 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United on 21 October set the tone, before we sandwiched home draws with Palace and Wolves between a capitulation at Leicester. Failure to twice retain a two-goal lead in the Carabao Cup against Liverpool denied us a morale-boosting victory at Anfield – we went on to lose on penalties – and the poor domestic form carried over to the Europa League where we drew against Vitoria.
Last night’s demoralising 2-2 home draw with Southampton, appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. [Ooops!]
Off the pitch, Emery was forced to strip Granit Xhaka of the captain’s armband after the Switzerland international swore at his own supporters. The midfielder had only been in the role for a matter of weeks after a prolonged election process in the aftermath of Laurent Koscielny’s exit.
His treatment of Mesut Ozil has also garnered headlines. The German, who alongside Sead Kolasinac was the subject of an attempted robbery on the eve of the season, was repeatedly excluded from matchday squads much to the frustration of fans worn down by the side’s lack of creativity. In recent weeks, he had little choice but to restore the World Cup winner; his battle with our no. 10 seemingly lost.
Emery’s 18 months in charge did have a couple of highlights. Last season’s 4-2 win against Sp*rs was a day to remember and the hammering of Valencia in the semi-finals of the Europa League was also noteworthy. Those games aside, it was more sausage than caviar.
Emery was contracted until the summer with the club having the option to extend his contract by a further 12-months. He’ll walk away with a pay-off and he’ll likely take fellow Spaniards Juan Carlos Carcedo and Pablo Villanueva with him. We wish them the best of luck and we’re sorry that it hasn’t worked out.
The club have confirmed that Freddie Ljungberg will take over coaching responsibilities on an interim basis.