After shambolic recent performances this season, it is clear that Arsenal are in dire need of managerial change. The club’s managerial issues stretch back over the last decade, but where did it all go wrong for arsenal and their managers?
Arsene Wenger was one of the best managers in footballing history, he lead Arsenal to an infamous ‘invincible’ season in the 2003-04 Premier League season, as his illustrious team went the entire 49 game season without losing, something that seems infeasible in premier league football even to this day. The manager went on to become the longest serving manager of the league with a 22 year reign at Arsenal from 1996-2018. Arsene Wenger won 17 major trophies at Arsenal, including 3 league titles and 7 FA cups, however in May 2018 after years of unrest from the Arsenal fans, Arsene Wenger left the club. This is where Arsenal’s managerial woes began.
This table shows the rapid decline of Arsene Wenger’s league finishes since the invincible season in 2003/04, its clear to see that the manager was not producing domestic success in the later years of his term. It was the 2017-18 season when Arsenal finished 6th that was the final nail in the coffin for Wenger as he chose to leave the club at the end of the season, ending his illustrious career at the club with his worst finish in his 22 year leadership.
After the much anticipated exit of club legend Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal board were left with the daunting decision of having to find the Frenchman’s replacement. Just 10 days after Arsene Wenger’s final game for the Gunners it was announced by Arsenal that former Paris Saint-Germain manager Unai Emery would take charge permanently over the Arsenal team. After 22 years under the same manager and relatively unsuccessful years of recent, a fresh face in charge was welcomed by the club, both fans and players seemed to be excited to see what the new manager would bring to the table.
Emery’s term at Arsenal did not begin with the success anticipated by the fans as the manager lost his first competitive game to the champions Manchester City 2-0 and then lost his second league game 3-2 to Chelsea. Although the results were negative, the players were playing with much more heart and determination than they were the season before. After these two games, results brightened up for the team as Arsenal went on an 11 game win streak and a 22 game unbeaten run in all competitions with a notable result against North London rivals Tottenham winning 4-2. In Emery’s first season, it was looking like he would achieve champions league football, something that was not expected in the managers first season even by the optimists at the club. However, with significant losses to Crystal Palace, Leicester and Wolves and a draw to Brighton in their last 5 games, Arsenal dropped out of the top 4 and placed 5th in the league. Their final chance at champions league qualification came on the 29th of May as Arsenal faced Chelsea in the Europa League final. With one of the worst performances of their season, Arsenal lost 4-1 to Chelsea and missed out on Qualification for the Champions League.
For his first season in charge, coming 5th in the league and being runners up In the Europa League would have been considered a fantastic first year at the start of the season by Emery. However, the manor of defeats left much to be desired for the Arsenal supporters as there was clear discontent shown at the end of the season.
In the Summer of 2019, it was public knowledge that Arsenal had a very limited transfer budget to recruit new players, (£45 million) this however did not stop Emery signing the big players in his second summer transfer window. The manager was still able to obtain highly rated Ligue 1 player Nicolas Pepe from Lille for £72 million payed in instalments as well as Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid for the season. These major transfers amongst other smaller purchases (such as youngsters Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba) excited fans and gave the team a new look for the season ahead.
Emery’s 2019/20 season began with encouraging wins against Newcastle and Burnley however a convincing loss to Liverpool in match-week 3 dampened the mood around the club. Arsenal were picking up more draws than wins as the season reached October, something that was becoming old news for fans of the club. After a nervy 3-2 win in the Europa League on the 27th of October, Arsenal failed to win in 9 competitive games. In the evening after the 7th game (after losing at home 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt) Arsenal made the decision to sack Unai Emery, putting a stop to his 18 month leadership at Arsenal. Assistant manager and former invincible Freddie Ljungberg was announced as caretaker manager shortly after. The caretaker manager only survived 6 games at the helm, managing to win only 1 in his short time in charge.
It was finally released that former captain of the club Mikel Arteta would take full charge over the Gunners from Sunday the 22nd of December, leading the team into a demanding Christmas fixture list as they play 5 games in the space of 16 days. Will the new head coach flop at the helm like his 2 predecessors or will Mikel Arteta be able to salvage the season and become a managing legend like Wenger before him?