The brave new world under Raul Sanllehi didn’t exactly go to plan and he must now assume his fair share of responsibility for the failure and dismissal of Unai Emery.
Let’s try to make sense of what happened and why it was necessary before moving forward to the future. Emery arrived for training as usual on Friday after seeing his team beaten 2-1 by a relatively poor Eintracht Frankfurt side. The big talking point apart from the poor performance was the swaths of empty seats at the stadium, which was always going to have an impact on the Spaniards position at some point.
It’s been said that the majority of the board had already voiced their concerns and wanted the Spaniard removed after the dreadful draw against Southampton, but he was allowed one last chance to turn things around.
Friday arrived and Emery was told to attend a meeting between Edu, Sanllehi and Venkatesham and in less than 15 minutes Emery was advised of their decision to sack him.
It probably wasn’t a shock to him in a results rewarded business but it will hurt him deeply in the coming days. Personally, I’d already posted his imminent departure on facebook at 9am, partly because of a gut feeling but also due to whispers around the Emirates.
Emery apparently said goodbye to a number of players, while others took the opportunity to avoid the outgoing boss, which says a lot about the toxic dressing room.
The Spaniard’s position had become completely untenable but there were reasons other than his inability to communicate his ideas that put him in this position. Firstly, Emery joined a confused club behind the scenes when he joined in 2018.
Sven Mislintat was tasked with bringing in the talent that Emery would have to accommodate in the side and it’s said that in his second season, players were acquired without his recommendation or approval. That might go some way to explaining the fractured and dysfunctional nature of the team.
You could say that Arsenal took back the control from Wenger in a knee jerk reaction in 2018, only to stifle the incoming coach. If the club is to attract the likes of Max Allegri, they may have to concede their position to some degree because that calibre of candidate will want to make his own choices.
In this sense, the new structure had fundamental flaws at the heart of its operations and ensured Emery was severely impeded.
There’s also some justification that Arsenal’s sudden rush to change the internal structure resulted in lopsided staffing levels. These additional roles comprised of data collection personnel for his protracted training briefings.
It was something that I looked at in a previous blog article:
‘Along with the usual first team coach, assistant manager and goalkeeping coach, there is a head of performance, a sports scientist, numerous physios and even a soft tissue therapist. Not the Kleenex variety.
Then there’s a gang of analysts, analysing the stuff analysts analyse including a video and data analyst and there’s even a data scientist.’
Were they all completely necessary ? Probably not but it was a revolution that the club and coach convinced themselves they needed. I understand a large number of Emery’s bean counters have been dispatched simultaneously.
Then there was Emery’s inability to work with certain individuals such as Ozil and Torreira, but there is now a suspicion that the Dennis Suarez loan was doomed because of his attitude towards the player. Either that or Emery didn’t want him in the first place.
Other issues that will haunt Emery was the fragile defence, which was always going to be an problem without spending significantly and it has to be said that the recruitment of players has been patchy at best.
No one man is an island and although Emery’s head has rolled, he wasn’t exclusively responsible for this staggering meltdown and epic decline. The behind the scenes role can be equally important to any team and it clearly wasn’t right at Arsenal.
What next ? Well, it’s the interim managerial reign of Freddie Ljundberg, which may be the way forward, who knows.
More likely is the appointment of a highly experienced manager at the highest level and for me that’s Allegri, Nagelsmann, Pochettino, Benitez or Rogers.
Arsenal need someone who has an established vision and firm authority, which would certainly make Nagelsmann and Allegri the automatic choice. Pochettino was overwhelmed by niceness at ‘Spuds’, Benitez is at the beginning of a new and expensive contract in the Chinese Super League and Leicester will ask for a kings ransom for Rogers.
Behind those, there’s Vieira, Arteta, Howe and Nuno Espírito Santo, but in the meantime it would just be nice to see passion and pride. Ljundberg said he wanted to see smiles back on faces and demanded that players had to play for the shirt.
Let’s see what he can do, it can only be an improvement on the last seven games this season.