The inside stories of Unai Emery’s downfall at Arsenal

Date published: Friday 29th November 2019 3:50

With Unai Emery having cleared his desk at London Colney, the inside stories of his 18-month Arsenal reign and how it feel apart are emerging. Here are a few of the highlights…


Writing for The Athletic, the Arsenal oracle reports that the decision to dispense with Emery was made before the Eintracht Frankfurt game on Thursday night. Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham travelled to the United States after last Saturday’s draw with Southampton for a pre-planned meeting with Stan and Josh Kroenke. Between them, it was decided Emery’s time was up.

But it was not until Emery arrived to take training this morning that the manager was informed of his fate by Sanllehi, Venkatesham and Edu. The trio then informed the players, who received a rallying call from Edu before Freddie Ljungberg took training.

Emery is said to have taken the news in a ‘professional, respectful and understanding manner’. He’s a gent is Unai. Hardly one to leave a dirty protest in Edu’s drawer.

Ornstein and James McNicholas have put some more meat on the bones for the The Athletic, detailing how Emery’s relationship with Mesut Ozil initially broke down.

They also reveal how Emery allowed the club’s travel co-ordinator to give the pre-match teamtalk before the costly home defeat to Crystal Palace last April. It was something Emery had done before but Ameesh Manek failed to channel his inner Tony D’Amato, leaving the players and staff embarrassed and laughing.

Emery also bungled preparations for the Europa League final which Arsenal lost 4-1. Then, as the new season got going, Emery managed to get on the wrong side of Granit Xhaka for dawdling over the captaincy decision; David Luiz because a member of coaching staff had dared to offer the Brazilian some advice on his defending; and Calum Chambers for not giving him a chance at centre-back. By the end, the players were just waiting for the axe to fall.

Miguel Delaney, writing in The Independent, references the captaincy fiasco as the beginning of the end for Emery. Indecision was bad enough, but eventually giving it to Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang, ‘a player who fell asleep several times in video sessions with Borussia Dortmund’, led many players to conclude that Emery had lost the plot.

One of the incidents which planted the seed of doubt in the players mind is re-told by Delaney: ‘It was in the dressing room before a match, when the Basque manager got them into a huddle and told them to put their hands into the centre, before chanting “Arsenal! Arsenal! Arsenal!”.’

Respect for their manager among the Arsenal players had apparently long since evaporated by the time they travelled back from a 1-1 draw with Vitoria Guimareas last month. According to the Evening Standard’s James Olley, Emery sat alone at the front of the plane while players, well within earshot, openly mocked his broken English and his management style. “How many captains do we have?” is said to have been one of the wisecracks. Hilarious, lads.

Olley writes that Emery’s struggles with with the lingo led to meetings going on ‘much longer than usual due to confusion over the message he is trying to convey’, while one player admitted he had more communication via text with a former manager than what he received from Emery.

Sam Dean in The Telegraph highlights plenty of reasons why Emery deserved to go, but also some which suggest the problems run deeper than the dug-out. Arsenal’s transfer dealings in the summer have come under intense scrutiny with the exits of Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny leaving a leadership void. One source told The Telegraph that Kieran Tierney was struggling ‘because of the absence of experienced figures in the dressing room who could provide support during these difficult few months’.

So, who next?

Ian Watson


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