Unai Emery’s dismissal has been on the cards for quite some time, as Arsenal are winless in seven games, with one win in ten. They are bad numbers, and spelled doom for Unai Emery. Emery’s credibility, though, has been low since the end of last season, when Arsenal, having been third with seven games to go, won two of their final seven games and finished seventh. So while there are many games that may have spelled death by a thousand cuts for Emery, here are five thematic ones.
Watford 0-1 Arsenal
Oddly enough, the first game that appears on this list is an Arsenal win. Indeed, it is not only an Arsenal win, but an Arsenal win away from home, with a clean sheet. But that doesn’t tell the full story. In April, Arsenal went to Vicarage Road after the international break needing a win to keep momentum. And in the 10th minute, they were gifted one, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang closed down Ben Foster, and deflected his clearance into the goal. A minute later, Troy Deeney was sent off. 1-0 up, the opposition down to 10, surely Arsenal would win at a canter. Except, they didn’t. Instead, they were on the backfoot for large portions of the second half. Unai Emery chopped and changed, moving from a back three to a back four, and then back to a back three as he reacted to what Watford, who again, had ten men, were doing, rather than taking the initiative himself. Too much respect for the opposition and failure to impose his game would become thematic as Arsenal would lose at home to Crystal Palace and draw at home to Brighton, blowing a one goal lead, and thus fail to finish in the top 4. But that inability for Emery to impose was most stark when he had 80 minutes of a lead against a ten-man team.
Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea
The debacle in Baku. After an okay first half, Chelsea, under Maurizio Sarri, ran riot in the second half, fueled by Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud. Emery removed Özil for Joe Willock, with the former allegedly mouthing “Wallahi (I swear) you are not a coach.” It was an alarming second half collapse, with the match having been 0-0 at half time, reflecting the way Arsenal collapsed at the end of the season. And while Emery would get another 6 months, he arguably should’ve been sacked at this point. In any case, after these two collapses, he slowly began to lose the confidence of the players, culminating in the final three games of this list.
Watford 2-2 Arsenal
For a team that has been utterly dreadful for 6 months, it is perhaps alarming that Watford appears twice on this list. Indeed, it’s also funny: Arsenal took 4 points from these two games, but in both, serious red flags were raised. This, of course, is the game where Arsenal were outshot thirty-one (31) to seven, against the team that was bottom of the league. Emery’s passing out from the back strategy backfired, with Sokratis passing straight to Tom Cleverly, as Arsenal gave up a two goal lead. Emery’s response was to not start Mesut Özil, who started here, and set-up one of Aubameyang’s two goals as Arsenal raced into a two goal lead.
This began the theme of late Emery, of, “has he been sacked yet Emery,” where Arsenal began blowing leads with incredible ease.
Arsenal 2-2 Crystal Palace
A bunch of the aforementioned games began to blur into one game of awfulness. I honestly can’t really tell you the difference between most of them, especially the home games. They all sucked, but not enough for Arsenal to lose. Crystal Palace, though, stands out: Arsenal went 2-0 up within 10 minutes, played on the backfoot, went into half-time 2-1 up, gave up an equalizer early in the second half, did very little going forward, got screwed by VAR, and, oh yeah, the captain told the fans to fuck off as he was jeered off the pitch. This culminated in Xhaka losing the armband, Emery losing more respect from the dressing room as he dithered over the response to Xhaka telling said fans to fuck off, and alerted the media to the malaise at the Emirates, with most people realizing that although Xhaka was angry at Emery, he was a lightning rod for Emery, with fans resenting that Xhaka would never get dropped. This became the backdrop to Arsenal games, but it ensured that there was renewed focus and scrutiny of Emery, especially as this was also the game where the Mesut Özil song was sung to the rafters—Özil would be back in the team during the midweek, and would go on to start every Premier League game after, as Emery went back on something that he had said was a club policy.
Arsenal 1-2 Frankfurt
The denouement. It could’ve been Arsenal’s draw with Southampton last weekend, where the 19th placed team, beaten three weeks ago 9-0, dominated, at the Emirates. But really, the game that made it abundantly clear that this was over was Arsenal losing 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt in a half-empty stadium, with people there seemingly out of morbid curiosity, or to boo Unai Emery. Arsenal blew a one-goal lead, and lost a game that they should’ve run away with in the first half. Afterwards, Unai Emery called it an improvement. He’d be out of a job twelve hours later.