Unai Emery, of course, had some very big shoes to fill. Nobody expected him to come in and reinvent Arsenal the way Arsene Wenger did, but there was some expectation that Emery would help Arsenal get back to where they (and we) want the club to be - regularly competing in the Champions League, and occasionally challenging the oil clubs and Liverpool for a championship.
After apparently not remembering the Premier League season ends in May, not April, last year and thus stumbling across the finish line in fifth, Emery had this summer to start molding the club more into what he wanted. With guidance from Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal did a lot more, and a lot better, business over the summer than anyone expected, which was a big win for everyone, club and fans alike.
In a very not-surprising move today, Sanllehi came out and basically said “We’ve given you the tools, the materials, and the land, now build us a house”. I mean, not in those exact words; he’s not a carpenter. What he said, at a fan event today, was:
“We said to Unai that we just missed out on qualifying for the CL last year, but this year with a stronger squad, we expect you to do that.”
It isn’t a surprise that Emery, in the second year of a two-year contract (with a club-held option year next year), might be coaching for his job this season. It was a bit of a surprise for the club, or at least someone who is officially associated with the club, to go public with what we all assumed was the situation. Arsenal are famous for never really saying stuff like this in public, but there it is.
No, he didn’t specifically say “top four or you’re fired”, but it’s a pretty short stroll from “with a stronger squad, we expect you to do that” to the concept that another fifth place finish means a new manager next season. Arsenal are in third right now, so are, as of now, well positioned to achieve that top-fourness; then again, at this point last season, they were in fourth, similarly well-positioned. We shall see if lessons were learned from last spring.