There’s a cruel irony that the man trusted to take Arsenal into a new era post Wenger, is 90 mins away from costing us a place in the next season’s Champions League. Unai Emery might see that irony as Karma.
Always coming across as a decent man, he’s always spoken of his time at Arsenal with respect and dignity.
While he might never publicly say it though, you sense there might be a couple of his ex-players he won’t have any sympathy for, if he knocks them out of the Europa League this week?
Many ask why it seems that Arteta is getting more patience from his employers then Emery did? For me it’s as simple as Emery lost the dressing room. When that happens in football (I’m not saying it’s right) a manager’s position becomes untenable.
For all of Arteta’s struggles, we are yet to see the negative body language that was a feature of Emery’s final games. Remember how Aubameyang would publicly berate youngsters if they made a mistake in the final third, how everyone was so fed up they didn’t celebrate a stoppage time equaliser against Southampton. Xhaka’s meltdown at home to Palace was indicative of where the squad were at mentally, and even Arteta in his first few days in the job had to politely question the level of fitness he had been left with.
Let’s call this week though the Unai Emery week. Last week I paid tribute to the Spaniard by writing a brief summary of his time in North London.
This article will explore his approx. 15 months in charge and pick out his 5 best and 5 worst Arsenal games.
Feel free to add any suggestions in the comments ……….
Emery’s Best 5 games
5 – Arsenal 3-1 Leicester (22-10-18)
I picked this not for the result but for a spell in the second half when our football was sublime.
Let’s be honest even when Emery took us 22 games unbeaten, we were very rarely entertaining to watch. For a brief 20 min spell our football was orgasmic with even the players shocked by how good their goals were.
It takes a lot to create an atmosphere at the Emirates, but the football that evening was so good the crowd knew they were watching something special.
4- Napoli 0-1 Arsenal (18-4-19)
On paper a tough draw but defending a 2-0 lead from the first leg it was incredible how straightforward we made it look. Our game management was very un-Arsenal like as we protected our advantage in a manner many thought not possible by this group of players.
3- Fulham 1-5 Arsenal (7-10-18)
In his final season Arsenal were not easy to watch under Mr Wenger and it wasn’t always clear what our identity was under Unai Emery. Yet for one lovely afternoon along the River Thames, all of Unai’s principles clicked. Ramsey’s goal in particular was a thing of beauty, counter attacking at its best.
The away fans chanted ‘We got our Arsenal Back’. We hadn’t but one for one afternoon we could hope.
2- Valencia 2-4 Arsenal (9-5-19)
A year on before his exploits in the FA Cup, there were accusations against Aubameyang that he went missing on the big occasions.
When Valencia took the lead after 11 mins, the renowned intimidating Mestalla was rocking. Up stepped Auba to score a hat trick and send us into our first European Final since 2006. It could be a good omen for this week as we played the second leg of this semi-Final knowing we couldn’t qualify for the Champions League domestically. Obviously because of events in Baku this result doesn’t get talked about that much.
1- Arsenal 4-2 Spurs (2-12-18)
As has been tradition over the years the build up to the North London Derby was dominated by the media putting together a combined 11, with apparently not one gunner making the list. Like our famous 5-2 wins in years gone by, we came from behind thanks to a storming second half, perhaps the best Aubameyang and Lacazette have linked up with on the pitch.
Thanks to his 4th goal, in one moment the Emirates took Torreira and Emery into their arms and welcomed them to the Arsenal Family.
It didn’t last.
Emery’s Worst 5 Games
1- Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal (22-10-19)
Often seen as the turning point for Emery where the majority of Gooners seemed to really start questioning our manager.
As strange as it might seem to say now, many were starting to question why Ozil was being paid to sit at home while we were struggling to make chances at a newly promoted team.
It seemed to underline how bad Arsenal had been away from home under Unai. Slow build up, sideways passing and zero creativity. To put it simply, we were boring to watch.
The late siege on the United goal never came.
2- Leicester 2-0 Arsenal (9-11-19)
With the Foxes second in the table at the time there were natural comparisons between Unai Emery and the job Brendan Rodgers was doing at the King Power, especially that Leicester seemed more entertaining to watch.
We did nothing to change that perception as our manager stood in the rain and essentially hoped we could hang on for a 0-0 draw with the home team missing plenty of chances. It was depressing to see the gap that now existed between the two clubs with the score line flattering them.
3- Arsenal 2-3 Palace (21-4-19)
The beginning of us choking and throwing away our top 4 hopes.
Three days after qualifying for the last 4 of the Europa League, many accused Unai Emery of prioritising Europe by resting talent and starting the likes of Jenkinson and Elneny. In truth you couldn’t account for some of the defensive errors that day, especially from Mustafi.
A win would have put us in third on 69 points with 4 games left to play. As it turned out 71 points would have been enough, so this really was the turning point.
2- Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal (29-12-18)
Our annual humiliation was made at Anfield. This time it felt worse because many had convinced themselves that Unai Emery, during a 22-game unbeaten run, had changed the team’s mentality. Yet we ended up making the same defensive mistakes individually and collectively as we would have done under Mr Wenger.
Liverpool felt sorry for us in the second half so took their foot off the pedal.
It made a mockery of gooners who just a month before were boasting about a draw at home to the same team. This was the classic, ‘things change yet stay the same.’
1 Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal (29-5-19)
They say it’s not ‘if you lose’ but ‘how you lose’. Even though it was a Final in his first season, this was such a heavy bleed, Unai Emery could never recover from.
Given that we were the ones who had to win in Baku to qualify for the Champions League, it’s amazing how our players allowed the occasion to pass them by.
The first half was a poor spectacle from both sides. In the second half they scored 3 goals in 11 minutes. We have been bleeding ever since.
Name Me Your top 5 below
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