Analysis of Unai Emery’s legacy at Arsenal

Emery’s Legacy? by Dan Smith

As we are playing Villarreal in the semi-Final of the Europa League, it’s only right that in the next two weeks I dedicate a few articles to our former boss.

It’s ironic that the man trusted to take us into a new era after Arsene Wenger ends up standing in our way from doing just that. Unai Emery might feel that irony is potent, given how he was treated at the Emirates?

He especially might feel he owes some of his ex-player’s some karma, and might not have too much sympathy if he breaks their hearts on the next two Thursdays.

When it’s asked why Arteta is being given more time despite a worse win/loss ratio it’s as simple as – Emery lost the dressing room. Right or wrong, when a manager loses his dressing room his position becomes untenable.

When they retire, we will no doubt get more details, but it was clear in Emery’s last few months in North London, senior players were not fighting for him.

While he’s been respectful towards us since his exit, he’s said enough to indicate he had the impression he would get longer than a season and a half to implement his ethos?

Arsenal were not just changing their coaching staff (which saw a huge staff turnover) but were re-structuring the whole set up behind the scenes.

Arsene Wenger was perhaps the last individual in English Football who had control over the majority of departments. The Gunners were taking the opportunity of a transitional period to modernise. They no longer wanted a manager but someone who would focus on coaching while recruitment, contracts, scouting would be left to specialised departments.

In that sense Emery must have felt slightly misled when the man who sold the project to him, Ivan Gazidis, soon dispatched for Milan, while others in power such as Sven Mislintat left while being critical that he wasn’t being listened to.

The Gooners who had spent months wishing for change would have been impressed by the ruthlessness of their new gaffer.

He informed Jack Wilshire he would be retracting the pay as you play contract verbally agreed, and suggested to his employers that Ramsey was not worth the salary proposed because he didn’t view the Welshman as a guaranteed starter.

Under the old regime both of the midfielders (at the club as teenagers) would have been handed new deals.

Emery’s predecessor also never treated Ozil in the manner the Spaniard did. The German would be benched for away games and sometimes not in the squad at all, as it was made clear Emery didn’t trust him tactically to follow his principles.

This style of man management was bizarre though. One week the World Cup Winner couldn’t make the line-up, the next he would be our captain. I believe a section of our fan base were trying to convince themselves the alterations were working.

Some had become YouTube celebrities by verbally abusing the greatest manager in our history so it appeared they feared losing credibility if the grass didn’t turn out greener.

You will never see a more over-reaction to starting a season with two defeats when we lost to Man City and Chelsea. In particular at the Bridge, supporters were encouraged by new tactics, in particular the high press and wanting his keeper to play out from the back (in his last year as a professional Cech found this hard to adjust to).

As mentioned, many were happy with the tough stance shown towards Ozil and Ramsey. The problem being we didn’t have another creative player and we still haven’t replaced Rambo’s goal from midfield.

Emery seemed to have preferred being conservative instead of having flair. He would select three centre backs purely based on trusting Kolasinac defensively (he’s a left back!). It’s not like we were doing this for his attacking threat either. His final ball was terrible.

At times he would have three DM in front forcing Torreira to be the furthest midfielder forward (if he played a front three, he insisted on three DM). That formation meant at times we would start with 7 or 8 defensive players with the idea that our front two could win the game on their

Even when we went 23 games unbeaten it wasn’t clear what our identity was. A crazy stat existed where Leno was facing on average 20-30 shots a game. Highlights in that unbeaten run included scoring 4 in the NLD.

I wrote at the time how cringeworthy it was the online reaction to drawing 1-1 at home to Liverpool. Many felt it was a result that proved we could now compete, when in reality it was quite common for Liverpool to not beat us away.

A truer reflection of where we stood was our annual humiliation at Anfield. At that point defensive reinforcements had been an ageing Lichsteiner and Sokratis who apart from pounding his chest and growling didn’t do a lot.

Yet, when it was clear to everyone our defence needed bolstering, the best Stan Kroenke could manage was a midfielder on loan. Apart from Man City and Liverpool all the top 4 contenders were
inconsistent in the run-in, with it turning out that Chelsea and Spurs were the best of a bad bunch.

Many accused us of having one eye on the Europa League when we rested talent against Crystal Palace but even if we had found one win it would have been enough for the top 4.

In many ways getting to the Europa League Final was the worst thing to happen to Emery. It’s not that he lost to Chelsea but more how he lost. Unlike us, Chelsea didn’t need to lift the trophy to qualify for the Cl so it was amazing how much more they wanted it then us. The occasion passed our players by.

Some still defended him suggesting we judge him when he was allowed to bring in more of his own players. He’s since indicated that’s not what happened. He claimed that his first choice was Zaha not Pepe, but because Lille agreed to a generous payment plan, we pulled out of negotiations with Palace who wanted the majority of the fee straight away.

We somehow managed to make our defence worse by replacing Koscielny with David Luiz. Monreal was sold not Kolasinac.

Ramsey’s goals from midfield were never replaced and you sensed when he left we lost our remaining identity.

Meanwhile the club had made it their worst kept secret that they were hoping to get Ozil off the wage bill. Emery was adamant that the player was not being left out for any behaviour or attitude problems. Again he didn’t trust the midfielder in away games, taking him off early at Watford and leaving him at home for the trip to Old Trafford.

As strange as it seems to write now given how his time in North London ended many started to take Ozil’s side over the managers, mainly because Emery hadn’t found another creative source.

It wasn’t that fans didn’t agree with the assessment that Ozil needed to do more, it was the fact that we had become dull to watch. Even in Arsene Wenger’s last few seasons when things were not perfect, the one thing an Arsenal side would guarantee you if nothing else was that they would make chances.

We went 7 games without a win with a whimper. We were getting well beaten at Sheffield United and Leicester. It was no longer clear what the ethos was? Whatever your opinions on the current regime, Emery had to go because he had clearly lost the dressing room.

You could tell that by the work rate Aubameyang suddenly showed the moment there was a change.
Both Xhaka and Mustafi changed their minds about leaving that January after talks with a new manager.

Arteta has too much class to be critical of the work left for him to fix but he did with his actions. First, he implied the squad were not fit enough to play the style he wanted then he referred to the club following the standards that he was used to when he was our captain. The likes of Mustafi and Ozil (at least for a while) were brought in from the cold.

In many ways, Emery’s first season at Villarreal is reflecting his first in North London. He started with an unbeaten run in Spain (18 games) but that form has fizzled out in the second half of the campaign.

He’s now almost in an identical scenario to when he took us to the semi-Final of the EL. He knows that he has to win this trophy to qualify for the Champions League.

Eventually, that proved too much pressure for us two years ago with Emery unable to sort that problem.

As a man who loves his time on the training pitch, he will be working on every weakness he remembers about his ex-players, he will be unloading on bis current squad as many details about us as possible.

Emery’s legacy at the Emirates will be it didn’t work out, but I think it stops there. He always came across as a decent bloke who wanted to succeed but simply lost the dressing room. With hindsight that’s more of a reflection on our current players more than Emery.

While the ‘Good Ebening’ mockery got mean spirited in the end, I do believe there’s zero hard feeling between our fan base and Emery. It was always going to be hard to be the man after Wenger.
He has enough belief in himself to not lose any confidence over the experience knowing it’s part of the game.

Maybe though, there might be a few ex-players and a few behind the scenes who he might have expected more support from.

He will think it’s only fitting if he gets the last laugh…

What do you think is Emery’s Legacy At Arsenal?



  1. Mertesacker’s and Bould’s contributions to Saka’s/ Smith-Rowe’s developments were great, but Emery gave them the first team opportunities

    Poor Emery was mocked by some players and some fans, even until now. But he lost the dressing room and his positional play wasn’t good either, so he got the boot

    If he still uses the same tactics, I believe we have a good chance to win or at least draw against him in Spain. Away teams are mostly stronger in this season’s European competitions due to the absence of the supporters at the stadiums, as seen in Chelsea’s CL away matches

    1. What do you think of Chukwueze GOI? He’s quick and tricky and I’m concerned he will tear the likes of Xhaka, a new one!

      1. I forgot to mention about Chukwueze. He’s very tricky and just made a lot of problems against Barcelona, so Xhaka will be needed to handle him

        Luckily Xhaka likes to stay behind when playing LB, so we won’t have to worry too much about Chukwueze’s counter-attacks

        However, our result will also depend on our CF. Hopefully Nketiah or Martinelli can help the midfield like what Lacazette always does

  2. Emery’s legacy as well as Arteta’s (however long it lasts) in my opinion mainly reflects the lack of proper leaders in our dressing room, that surprisingly started in Wenger era. Arteta was probably the last and even he wasn’t good or strong enough. I respect our former captains – Kos, BFG etc. – but they were just not good enough for top-top EPL team and the current squad is very far even from that level. Hell, I learned to respect Xhaka as well, but how far is he from Vieira or Gilberto Silva? The current squad is top 4 or top 6, considering football qualities only. It’s also bottom three, considering just leadership qualities, togetherness (!!!) and intent shown on the field. Young guns are too young, old guns are acting like small kids. Sometimes it works fine, sometimes it’s just one depressive downward spiral.

  3. Arteta HAS lost the dressing room. Has done for months. Nobody there likes his bizarre tactics. Only a few dummies like Willian, and Ceballos,(who have no right playing and are not Arsenal men in any sense of the word) who get underserved playtime, actually like him. Aubameyang obviously cannot play for Arteta. Arteta is a poor, rookie, second rate manager. Chelsea were strong and got rid of second rate Lampard and hired a top manager. Look what has happened since. Arteta ‘is lost’ and ‘has lost’ the dressing room.

  4. So Emery lost the dressing room, thus the bad results.

    Arteta hasn’t lost the dressing room but is still performing worse than Emery.

    Not very flattering for MA.

  5. Sean Williams I said a few months ago Lampard was hired to sort out the deadwood and after that was sacked I think Arteta is in the same boat come the end of the season he will go I hope

  6. Dan, congratulations for a very fair assessment. As you stated it was always going to be difficult for whoever came in to replace Arsene Wenger. Similar to the situation at Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson, but without the transfer budget.
    There appeared to have been very poor succession planning, given that Wenger could not manage forever. Changing the total Club management structure and the departure of Sven Mislantat didn’t help.
    Emery being appointed head coach not manager and having little or no say in buying of players he was expected to coach was misguided.
    One thing you neglected to cover was the high number of injuries Emery had to cope with. Six or seven players with long term injuries, if my memory serves me correct, particularly affecting defense with Koscielny, Holding, Bellerin as well as Welbeck injured.
    In his first season he did well to improve on the results from Wenger’s last season; however the players obviously down tools on him in the run into the end of the season and individual failures like Aubameyang missing a penalty against Spurs, cost a win and gave Spurs points they shouldn’t have got to finish in 4th position. Similarly the stupid send off of Xhaka cost points. The Europa League final defeat in Baku was a disgraceful performance by the players and Emery was obviously disgusted.
    As we have all seen, changing the head coach/manager (except for the very important FA Cup win, has only led to further deterioration of this team’s performances. One never knows whether Arsenal will turn up or not on the day, the performances have been so inconsistent and poor particularly away.
    Villarreal under Emery are performing better than one would expect in both La Liga and the Europa League, given the quality of the squad. Should Arsenal take Villarreal lightly and fail to turn up committed over two legs, I fear for the result. Arteta must get them to lift for this semi final and then the final.

  7. ozziegunner That is a fair assessment of what happened I am wondering if the same is happening now so inconsistent I would play the youngsters. Here a thought when we play Newcastle and Willock scores the winner that bound to up set Arteta then he will sell him

    1. Sir Michael, as Willock is on loan to Newcastle from Arsenal, he is barred from playing against his home club.

  8. Dan or Pat, I think you’ve said that Emery’s lost of the Gunners dressing room had caused him his job at Arsenal.

    But it hasn’t been pointed out in the article posting what has caused it that made it for him to lost the dressing room to a senior players gang up at the club against him. But I think his substituting and dropping of Ozil in matches must have angered him to use his divisive know-how knowledge and subversive activities attitude to form a senior player gang up against Emery, in the dressing room and on the training ground. And by extension to Arsenal matches. All in the hope that if Arsenal are losing matches to not make the top-four place finish nor win the ELC final, Emery will be sacked. And that was exactly what had happened. And matters were not helped for Emery after he stripped Xhaka the Arsenal’s captaincy armband. Which further heightened the senior players division that was against him in the dressing room and on the training ground.

    These are the same subversive and undermining strategy and ploy that Ozil when he was at the Gunners has employed against Mikel Arteta. But his plan to get Arteta fired by causing a division against him within the Gunners at the club did not work but failed to materialized.

    Ozil if for football reason is dropped by any Arsenal coach from playing for the team which he didn’t like or accept will not mind or care if Arsenal start losing matches afterwards as far as he is concerned I would think.

    1. Samuel, I agree with your suspicions. When Emery dropped Ozil he was not supported by the Board and senior management, thus he was forced to reinstate him. Ozil’s performance in Baku was so appalling that even his greatest fans would be hard pressed to defend him.
      However, when Ozil was dropped by a second manager Arteta that action was supported by the Board and senior management and Ozil’s days were numbered. He is not exactly “pulling up trees” for Fenerbahce, whilst still being paid by Arsenal.

      1. The whole team was a disgrace in Baku and that includes mr Emery as well Ozzie no matter how many excuses you come up for him with ,how you can excuse him of any blame is beyond me

        1. Dan, please explain what he got wrong? If you check back he selected the players and formation most people on here asked for. The players didn’t put in and Emery was disgusted. Arsenal in the run into the final had beaten strong teams in Valencia and Napoli.

          1. So what your saying is Emery wasn’t to blame at all ?
            Valencia and Napoli were terrible teams .EL is made up of terrible teams that’s why we are in it .

          2. And let me guess if Villarreal beat us it will be because of Emery gut if we beat them it will be because the players let him down

          3. Dan, I just hope Arteta and the players he selects can do the job for Arsenal and win the semi final over two legs.

  9. Emery took us to the Final of EL which is something good

    Also Emery didn’t want Pepe. He wanted Zaha so we need to look at how he was treated by the higher ups too

  10. Legacy?!? he was here for a cup of coffee to do just one job = sacrificial lamb

    he actually overachieved given the constraints of his employment, the administrative clusterfu** that ensued following his hiring and the fact that he had to navigate a fractious locker room and fanbase after years of Wenger-led mismanagement…we need to be very wary of this pending match-up because there’s no team he wants to beat the sh** out of more than ours, and that includes PSG

    1. “Sacrificial lamb” is right, TRVL. At the time I stated that it was cheaper to sack a head coach, than to spend the money required to address the deficiencies of this Arsenal squad.
      The manager revolving door is under way to deflect attention from KS&E’s Board and management team.

  11. Against Villarreal in the ELC at away in the 1st leg semifinal match tomorrow night, I am by this my comment posting imploring us Gooners to start praying fervently to God from now on to give success to Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff to make a match winning Gunners selection for Villarreal.

    And also let us fervently be praying for the Gunners too as well. Who are going to play in the match to win the it. So that Arsenal will totally overturned Ozil’s diabolical spells casting and rituals making against Arsenal as I have been suspecting he has resorted to be doing against Arsenal to make them lose matches after Arteta dropped him in the team for goods. The Ozil’s spells casting, rituals and diabolical making against Arsenal this season that have made them to lost 13 matches in the PL need us Gooners seriously praying against to see them spoilt for goods for Arsenal by God. The Ozil’s rituals and diabolical making against Arsenal that almost saw them got knocked out at home in the ELC at the quarterfinals stage of the completion this season by to Olympiakos again in the 2nd leg match if they had scored twice after their scoring once in the match. But for the intervening by God for Arsenal in the match to their favour, limits Olympiakos to the only one goal they scored in the match is seeing Arsenal still in this season’s ELC playing.

    To qualify for the final match and win the Cup, Arsenal have to first knock out Emery’s Villarreal coched team from the competition. And I think and believe the Gunners will start doing this tomorrow night at Villarreal.

    1. Lazy, frail, thief and it is not enough you had to add witchcraft too. I am curious what will come up next. How deep are we willing to sink to support the manager in training?

    2. Another blind Arteta supporter. Don’t you guys get tired of making excuses??? Even Areta would be laughing reading some of the excuses his brigade is providing here for some time now. Amazing fact some of these fans are same who called Wenger stubborn 😂

      1. siamois, I too don’t believe in witchcraft, just good professional footballers who apply themselves, compared to poor footballers with disruptive influence and coaches, who get the best out of both by moving the disruptive players on.

    3. Please DO NOT BRING THAT word god in any discussion. Stay away fromthis site if you want to.
      Why is it that frail beings use a non existant being to justify their nonsense?

  12. It’s amazing when you see Arteta’s failure being overlooked by board and fans while a proven manager with cabinet full of trophies was given marching order even though he did well in his first season. How we are giving more time to a new unproven manager like Arteta with worse record than Emery is beyond any lagic. It should have been other way around if the board had any brain. Only thing left for us to play for long time this season is EL, hope we win it. It’s hard to be Arsenal fan when you are out of most of the trophy hunts by mid season.

        1. P.doff, the problems with Arsenal are deeper than the manager, My point was concerning the discussion about managers losing the dressing room or the dressing room losing the Managers, because of their frustration with players lack of professionalism, poor attitude and inconsistency.

  13. Imagine calling for Emery to get sacked, and now telling people to give Arteta more time.

    Hard to defend that one logically, but here we are.

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