For years upon years, we were told that any competent coach/manager could produce more out of these players than the ‘dinosaur’ Arsène Wenger. Fast forward a year, Arsenal failed to finish in the top four. It doesn’t matter that it was only by one point, the bottom line is Arsenal were not able to qualify for the Champions League through their Premier League finish.
Why did Arsenal finish outside the top four?
Before he slithered his way to Milan, Ivan Gazidis made the monumental decision to hire Unai Emery as the man to take Arsenal into the new era. The Spaniard’s meticulous preparation and attention to detail were highlighted as factors that set him apart from the other candidates.
We were also told that the former PSG coach had a habit of spending hours upon end watching video footage of matchday opponents. That’s all nice and good but in reality, last season has been in essence a carbon copy of Wenger’s worst and last.
Despite having several chances to do otherwise, Arsenal finished outside the top four. four months ago, we all sat here and said Unai Emery’s team had the easiest run-in out of the top four competitors. So, what did his players do? Pick up 4 points out of a possible 18, with two of those games taking place the Emirates.
The reason top four status was so vital for Arsenal is due to their financial constraints. Without UCL football, Arsenal reportedly have a transfer budget of £45million. So far they’ve already missed out on Yannick carrasco because of those financial constraints and they might miss out on Kieran Tierney for the same reasons.
Just like Arsène Wenger’s final days, Arsenal’s away record last season was abysmal. The Gunners only won seven games on the road last season. Arsenal conceded 35 goals in the process, only keeping one away clean sheet, ranking themselves as the 15th worst defence on the road.
It’s this damming reality that cost them automatic UCL qualification. On the flip side, their home form was imperious, only bettered by Manchester City and Liverpool. It’s hard to pinpoint why the Gunners seem to produce such a lower quality of performance away from the Emirates. It could be either down to mental fragility or poor tactics. Lest we forget, Emery went a whole season with Sevilla not winning a single away game.
As aforementioned, Unai Emery was seen as the standout candidate on the committee board’s shortlist. However, despite all the compliments Gazidis rained down on him, there were dissenting voices across Europe in regards to his appointment. Fans from his previous tenures were quick to warn the Arsenal faithful.
According to his critics, Unai Emery has always showcased the mentality of a ‘small’ club. He is a pragmatic coach that prefers to be cautious and conservative rather imposing and expressive. He sets up his sides like they’re forever the underdogs, regardless of the opponent. He’s also been described as a ‘cup’ manager that only rises to the occasion against the bigger sides. That’s why you can see Arsenal’s record against the top 6 has improved, despite not their overall stance.
Europa League alternative
Luckily or unluckily for Gunners, they have ANOTHER chance to play Champions League football in the 2020/2021 season through the upcoming season’s Europa League. Most big teams view the tournament as a demotion but for Unai Emery, this is his bread and butter. The Spaniard is the only man to have won this tournament on three occasions. He wants to make it four while bringing back UCL football to the Emirates for the first time in three years.
In essence, finishing 5th and a Europa League final was an improvement from Arsenal’s 2017/18 season but perhaps not the improvement the fans were expecting. Only time will tell whether Emery is the right man to take Arsenal forward, but we must at least give him the benefit of another two transfer windows to fully implement his style on this discombobulated squad.