Unai Emery cannot manage. Whatever he can do, or whatever he knows about football or whatever his language skills – he failed because he cannot manage players.
The Ozil situation was an utter disaster – Whether you like Ozil or hate him, he is the team’s most talented and most accomplished player and, more importantly, Arsenal have no replacement for him. Ceballos, Willock. Torreira, Reiss-Nelson, Saka, Guendouzi, Xhaka… they all played the #10 and none of them did it half as well as Ozil.
Again, love him or hate him, he has a contract, he has said, publicly and repeatedly, both personally and through his agent, that he will not leave the club to take a pay cut. If you know that, you have two choices – buy him out or play him. You cannot have a player that is twice as good as all of your other options sitting in the stands, not even in the team, when you cannot hold possession because your #10 is a human turnover machine. The players know Ozil is better, the coaches know Ozil is better, even the people that hate him know he’s better. Which means you either live with that fact that he will stay to the end of his contract and play him, or you buy him out. If you do neither but try to bully a player with that kind of financial security and supreme confidence in his ability, you get what happened – instability in the locker room and a lack of belief in the manager.
Ozil also never once said a negative thing about his manager or the club. He was a pro. Emery, on the other hand, with other members of Arsenal’s front office management, made numerous classless comments. Whether you believe them to be true or not, they were still crass and ultimately, counterproductive.
The Xhaka situation was the next situation that Emery screwed up. The guy was named captain, and so quickly it caused whiplash, he was on his way out after a minor incident with fans. You know it was minor because Arteta brought him right back into the team and the fans embraced him after a couple of good performances.
Again, love Xhaka or hate him, if you think he’s a leader or a clueless jerk, the situation was completely mishandled. Arsene Wenger would have defused the situation, apologized for Xhaka, talked a bunch of B.S. about confidence and overwhelming emotions of committed players, and the situation would blow over with the next good game. Emery, instead, was heavy-handed and went full-metal Mourinho on Xhaka, who, whatever his faults are, is a committed, dedicated professional who shows real respect for the badge.
Guendouzi – a clear favourite of Emery, who could do no wrong no matter how badly he played. A young player with real potential, was shoe-horned into the line-up, creating massive imbalances, because Emery wanted Ozil out of the line-up. Guendouzi is a player who needed to have his opportunities managed, not shovelled down his throat. Now Arteta is having to clean up this mess and it could lead to the Gunners losing a player who, while still raw, could eventually be a massive asset.
Wilfried Zaha or Pepe… it is always so easy to say that Zaha would have been better which is simply not so. According to reports at the time, Palace was demanding a massive amount of money that, every time someone came close to paying it, they upped the figure. At first it was 40 million. Then 50. Then 80. Then 90. The truth is, Palace did not want to sell their only real star, especially to a Premier League team.
Personally, I am not a fan of Zaha, he’s soft mentally and physically. He’s a diver, he’s petulant when he’s not playing well, and lacks the mental toughness people scream that the team lacks. Also, he’s never scored more than 10 goals in a Premier League season. True, he racked up 10 assists that year, but that looks like 7-10 goals a year is about his level. Theo Walcott did that and got run out of town.
The point is, Emery was wrong. His inability to manage the players he had, many of whom are all massively talented cost him his job. He was given a fair chance, but in the end, he got 13 new players and despite that, created chaos and dissent among his players, and no improvement over the performances that got Arsene Wenger sacked.