Arsenal History 2018 – 2022: Emery, Arteta and the rebuilding project

ARSENAL HISTORY: 2018 to Present Day…

And so, after the loss of Wenger, came an emptiness at the club, that even to this day still feels like it hasn’t been completely filled and maybe never will.

Yet after conducting an overhaul in the club’s operating model to coincide with Wenger’s departure, Basque-Spaniard Unai Emery was named as the club’s new head coach on 23rd May 2018. He became the club’s first ever head coach and second manager from outside the United Kingdom.

In Emery’s first season, Arsenal finished fifth in the Premier League and as runner-up in the Europa League after losing out to Chelsea 4-1 in the final. I guess you could call that payback from Chelsea who lost out to us in the FA Cup back in the 2016-17 season.

However, Emery’s stint would be rather short lived, and, on the 29th of November 2019, Emery was sacked after rumours circulating that he had struggled with the language barrier and in turn had seemed to have lost the dressing room.

So, Arsenal were on the hunt for yet another manger, something they were not used to in more recent times after having one manager for around 22 years, they were soon on the hunt for their second manager in less than two years.
And so former player and assistant first team coach Freddie Ljungberg was appointed as interim head coach, a year after he was announced as the under-23 coach in June 2018.

In December 2019 Ljungberg had said he was working on a game-by-game basis. His first match as interim head-coach ended in a 2-2 draw away to Norwich City on 1st December and he achieved his first and only win, beating West Ham United 3-1 eight days later. And it would be 11 days later we would appoint yet another coach.

On 20th December 2019, Arsenal appointed former club captain Mikel Arteta as the new head coach. A man who was known to the club, yet had zero experience in managing a team as big as Arsenal (or just a team in general) after being assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City for three years between 2016-2019. But the Arsenal board saw something in the man they would appoint on a contract until 2023.

Upon his appointment, he stated that he believed the club had lost direction and that he didn’t want players to shirk responsibility adding: “I want people to take responsibility for their jobs and I want people who deliver passion and energy in the football club. Anyone who doesn’t buy into this, or that has a negative effect or whatever, is not good enough for this environment or this culture.”

And he lived up to that statement as we would learn later on!

On 26th December 2019, Arteta took charge for the first time as an Arsenal manager for their Premier League match against Bournemouth which ended in a 1–1 draw. Despite the draw, he stated he was pleased with the “attitude, passion and the fighting spirit” of his players, something we wold be hearing a lot after many games with Arteta in charge.

On 1st January 2020, Arteta won his first match as an Arsenal manager after a 2–0 win over Manchester United at the Emirates.

On 18th July 2020, we beat Arteta’s former employer Manchester City 2–0 in the FA Cup semi-final, where we went into our fourth FA Cup Final in seven years where we beat Chelsea 2-1 in the final, a score-line we had been used to after previous results in the same competition. 😊

This win would make Arteta the first person to win the FA Cup as both captain and manager of Arsenal. Moreover, he became the first manager to win a major trophy in his first season in charge of the club since George Graham in 1986-87. And only a few months later he won his second trophy, the Community Shield, in a 1-1 (5-4 on penalties) win against Liverpool.

In the Europa League, he led Arsenal to the semi-finals, in which we lost 2–1 on aggregate to ex manager Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
However, that season we would finish the league in eighth, our lowest finish since 1994–95. This result also ended the 25-year run of participating in European competitions and it was clear that Arsenal had hit rock bottom.

After the season, Arteta’s title was changed from head coach to manager and on 18 April 2021, Arsenal were announced as a founding club of the breakaway European competition The European Super League, AND WE ALL KNOW HOW WE FELT ABOUT THAT ONE, SO THE LESS WE SAY THE BETTER!

Arsenal withdrew from the competition two days after announcing they would take part, after backlash and protests from fans around England!

And things didn’t really look up too much as when the 2021-22 season began we started with three defeats and at one point we were rock bottom in the table, a position we were not used to at all, and talk of relegation was rife at the club, again something we were not used to!

To make matters worse, we were knocked out of all competitions such as the League Cup and the FA Cup, and of course not having European football to compete in, our sole focus was on the Premier League.

But if anybody had told us that at the end of the season, we would finish in fifth place after eighth placed finishes and three defeats at the start of the season, nobody would have believed it, yet the end of the most recent season has seen us step back into European football, albeit Europa League football, having just slightly missed out on Champions League.

But maybe just maybe Arteta is getting a team together that slowly will be back at the top where they belong, challenging for what they deserve. And if his reign comes to an end soon, he will for sure be remembered as the first person to win the FA Cup as a player and manager, a manager who wasn’t afraid to come in, shake things up and get rid of some big key players such as Mesut Ozil, Aubameyang, Sead Kolasinac, Lacazette and many more to name a few, despite the non-agreement from a section of Arsenal fans and pundits. Yet this shows that Arteta was not and is not afraid to make decisions and stick by them, despite them not always being the best choice or option for the club in the long run.

But Arteta is still at the club and has recently been offered a new deal too, and I fail to see the board letting him go even if he fails miserably.

So, although the end of the decade is still fours years away it will be interesting to see how the next four years pan out, and if each season can only get better, then I for one hope next season brings us some joy and positivity and less negativity, frustration and disgust.

And although I have said it once and I will always say it no matter what, I will always be proud to be a Gooner, Gunner, Arsenal fan, or whatever we want to call ourselves. Yes, we will have ups and downs throughout the years there is no doubt about that, but the way we get back up is what is important, and the way we stick together on and off the pitch is the most important too!

We lose as a team, we draw as a team, and we win as a team, and as long as we stay as a team to create the best possible memories and history that we can, well that is the most important thing!


The end!

Shenel Osman

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  1. Arsenal had better sign their ex-attacker Malcolm Ebiowei, before Man United or Crystal Palace sign him

      1. He is our academy product and a left-footed attacker like Adeyemi, which is a rare type. He will also help us with the homegrown quota

          1. Probably because he didn’t meet our coaches’ expectations at that time, similar to Harry Kane’s case

  2. Well, salutations to Ivan for being a man and for doing what was necessary to stop the rot and malaise getting deeper into the system. Since the departure of our greatest (and forever greatest till the club calls it quits) there was never any void. We reached the EL final (only to be outdone by the lethargic players he signed) and the loss of Giroud to our rivals, we lifted an FA cup (after banishing some uninterested players), we signed a proper defence – Tierney, Gabriel, White, Tomiyasu and Ramsdy, we signed a proper B2B player in Partey, got rid of prima donnas or non performing assets (which ever sounds better to one’s ears), we reduced our wage bill, brought about the sprit of competition back, put our humiliations (8-2,6-0,5-0s) behind us, we defeated CFC home and away, were unlucky against Utd., City & Pool. So much progress in these 4 years.
    In fact we owe an apology to Unai for spoiling his Europa credentials, and his credentials overall. Reaching the UCL semis with a bunch of nobodies but sincere and dedicated players makes me hang my head in shame as to what we did to him. And I wonder where we could have been had we given him respect and authority. even feel helpless to note that we stuck with a deadwood manager when Jose was around. Love him or hate him, you win a trophy with him around. Ask Man Utd, ask Roma.
    Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope and that hope is Mikel Arteta. If he gets his players, then the EL is ours. We do not have the billions like Pool or City to win the league. So the EL with either the FA or league cup would be our realistic targets if Mikel gets his way.

    1. Moving the goalposts again I see LC.
      So now your happy with a winning cups and, suddenly, you realise that we can’t compete with city and liverpool because they have a lot of money – that’s been the case since 2005 especially if you add chelsea and (now) newcastle to the list.

      Anyway, it’s good to know that you’ve finally accepted that we can’t /couldn’t win the league….just seventeen years too late, but progress is being made, so let’s be hopeful that the same goes for Mikel’s “trust the progress”!!!!

      1. Hello Ken, the goal posts were moved far far away by the greatest (and forever greatest till the club calls it quits) when he made some gullible folks believe the “top four tropheeeeee” and his brats even celebrated it wildly on the pitch. Leicester did win the league without blowing the money while our greatest (and forever greatest till the club calls it quits) lost the plot as was the case season after season. But it was then, now the situation is different. Players on mega wages, agent exorbitant fees, so yes there is a financial burden now, not then. Our greatest (and forever greatest till the club calls it quits) passed on Kante for Xhaka (good to have Mikel who redeemed him and transformed him to an EPL level player this season). And then the Ozil, Lacazette, fiascos like all those signings in his latter years.
        The difference is that our greatest (and forever greatest till the club calls it quits) was complacent and never wanted to win the league or Europe. He was content with the partition fee and his mega mega wages. Unia tried to win, but his players and we let him down. Mikel is trying to win and will win silverware either with us or elsewhere, because when you are focus and serious about wining, you win! Ask Jose, ask Unai. Even Ivan won the league this year with AC Milan. Why are we stuck? Because the culture in the club was lethargic, and such culture cannot be changed overnight Ken. Mikel is on the right track and will win! Trust Mikel, trust his process to make us great again

        1. So when we lost the “plot ” against Leicester and finished 2ND (qualifying yet again for the CL) above city, liverpool, chelsea, spuds in fact every other PL club, it was down to the manager.


          Now explain to me how we lost the “plot” last season, finished fifth BEHIND City, liverpool, chelsea and the spuds and DIDN’T qualify for the CL.

          Was that down to the manager?

          I notice, yet again LC, how you sidestep any question you can’t answer, so I’ll try again.
          Have you finally realised that we cannot compete for the CL with clubs that have billions of pounds to spend…. as was the case from 2005 onwards?

          Two very simple questions for you to answer Loose Cannon and I await your reply to these direct questions with interest.

      1. HH, such a simple and correct statement that is wasted on those who don’t want to criticise the current management.

        1. You don’t if you let them leave for free and then have to buy another player to fill that position, pay his agent and then give him a salary to match his skills.

    2. Loose Cannon, according to you Herbert Chapman must have been a “nobody”. Unfortunately he died too young.

  3. Emerys first season in hindsight was miraculous.
    But in hindsight that’s what cost him his job so soon. The club “expected ” + demanded top 4 the next season and after a good start 3rd after 8 games the wheels fell off in PL and EL and Unai was sacked 19 games into the League season. Arteta was hired and expetations were high. But then Covid struck and empty stadiums. However the enforced 3 months lay off favoured Arteta as he had more time to work with his players. At the end of the season Arsenal won an FA Cup no one else seemed interested in. But this gave Artea another season. The second covid season made to look better by a final flourish at the end but still 8th again. Losing to Unai at home in the EL semi a trophy Villareal would win made it worse. Logically Arteta should have been sacked but following the knee jerk Emery sacking the club decided that the way Artea handled covid and empty stadiums and the slight improvement that they would be more patient and persevere and entrust Arteawith the the new two year process. Their patience and faith has been rewarded many times over with the team over acieving by getting 5th finishing 11 points ahead of Man U. The club now does not expect or demand top 4 immediately like they did with Emery. Its about a top 6 sustainable model. Top 6 because the league is harder than the Kroenke/Wenger 2009 top 4 sustainable model 5th at the half way point in the process is ahead of schedule. The plan remains to recruit young compliant players with high ceilings and decent resale value. Already so far this season Turner 27yrs old and 7mill Marquinos 19 and 6m and the returning Saliba 21 and 27mill. So the team is now absolutely on track to achieve the top 5/6 sustainable model which will serve the club well for many seasons to come.

      1. When Wenger won 3 times there were only two decent teams in the league. Man U and Arsenal. Wenger was the first to bring in a slew of European players especially black players. But then Mourinho came in 2005 and also brought in European and black players. Mou also had huge financial backing before FFP was a thing. So Wengers advantage was short lived and that’s why he hated Mourinho so much. Chelsea has won 5 titles to Arsenals zero since Arsenal’s last title. Then Man City and Abu Dhabi arrived in 2009 and City has won 6 titles to Arsenals zero since that time. Liverpool under Klopp and Spurs under Poch arrived makig top 4 much harder to achieve. Westham has a big stadium now. Every team has a billionaire owner now, have capable managers and can scource players world wide.. City and Chelsea like PSG won titles with financial doping. Liverpool spent mega but have only won 1 title. Spurs are apparently a super club according to some on this site but last won the title in 1961. Vieira and Potter are apparenty genius coaches yet their teams finished 20 points below Arteta’s “terrible” team this season. Top 6 is actually a great position in a much changed PL landscape.

        1. Have you thought that, perhaps, Wenger and Fergie were the best managers at the time (some might say like Pep and Klopp today) and got together the two most exciting teams at that time?
          Do you think the rest of the club’s just downed tools and stood back in admiration?

          I’ve been saying for years that money changed the PL – from 2005 onwards in fact – yet a section of the fans expected AW to compete with this… and you laid out the changes succinctly.

          So tell me, do you expect city, chelsea and pool, in say twenty years time, to be told that there were only three teams in the PL and dismiss the other clubs as you are doing during Wenger’s and Ferguson’s days?

          One final thought for you – why was it, if I accept your thoughts, it only became a two horse race, when clubs with more money and more success couldn’t compete back in the two horse race?

          1. Agree with you Ken. When did clubs like Liverpool sit on their hands? Clubs like Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United spent big and couldnt sustain it, before Manchester United and Chelsea were cashed up.

          2. That is correct Ken. They built teams without crazy spending like Man City and Chelsea that were far superior to the rest and in effect creating a two horse title race.

            And like you have stated they were tactically far superior evidenced by their domestic and European success even though Wenger didn’t win any European trophy his teams were competitive and were not taken lightly.

  4. Sorry Shenel, should have said that I found your articles really interesting, well laid out and easy to read.
    Of course there were some points that could have been added, but when one is writing their views of the club’s history, it is their personal opinion.
    Looking forward to reading more from you and suggest you do an article at the end of this coming season.
    Well done again.

    1. 👍 Hopefully it will motivate many to do further research on the Arsenal’s history.

  5. Shenel, I echo KENS KIND THOUGHTS and though I have not posted much at all, on any of your “decades” articles, I read them all right through and appreciated your research and efforts on behalf of fans, esp those who were not old enough or even born, so have not seen the last six full decades. As I and others, such as Ken have done. Well done!!

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