Unai Emery

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Ljungberg wants quick appointment of new Arsenal manager

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Freddie Ljungberg is honored to serve as Arsenal’s interim manager following Unai Emery’s dismissal, but the Swede is also hoping for a speedy conclusion to the club’s search for a permanent replacement.

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In theory, taking over the most famous club for which Ljungberg played was a no-brainer. In practice, though, he openly admits it’s been not only a difficult time for everyone emotionally, but also in terms of the staff members available to assist him during the day-to-day grind. Throw in the fact he has no idea whether or not he’ll still have a role at the club when the new manager arrives, and it’s beginning to sound like a no-win situation. Perhaps he’s being considered to remain in the job permanently, but Ljungberg says he’s been given no indication of any such thing — quotes from the Guardian:

“The club have said I have to wait until they make a decision, so I can’t do anything at the moment. I have Per [Mertesacker] but at the same time he is academy manager. He is helping me with the coaching. The club has said when they make a decision then that’s it — or I’m leaving, obviously — and maybe then we can do something with the staff. But it’s up to the club.

“If you look at the person who was here before, he had a lot of staff and maybe I don’t have so many. So if you keep on going like that for months and months, it’s not so easy. But that’s totally up to the club.”

“I haven’t got any indication of if I’m here or not. What I’ve said to the bosses and the club is I will do everything in my power to do as well as I can for this club and the players. Then obviously it is up to them to make a decision. I try not to put any emotions into that.”

Arsenal came back from a goal down (twice) to draw Norwich City in Ljungberg’s first game in charge, then the Gunners were comprehensively beaten (at home) by Brighton & Hove Albion. The bounced back with a win over West Ham United on Monday, but could only draw Standard Liege (albeit with a weakened team) in the Europa League on Thursday.

Report: Everton approached Emery about managerial vacancy

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The search for Everton’s next manager is already well underway after an informal meeting with recently departed Arsenal manager Unai Emery in London over the weekend, according to a report from Sky Sports.

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Owner Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright are said to have drawn up a list of four candidates for the job which became vacant when Marco Silva was fired on Thursday. Emery is reportedly one of the names on the list, alongside Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti. Shanghai SIPG manager Vitor Pereira is also believed to be one of — if not — the club’s preferred choices.

As for Emery, it is unknown whether or not he wishes to jump into another job at this time. While he is expected to take a brief sabbatical, Emery won’t want to wait too long before picking his next job. According to the report, he would prefer to manage in either England, Spain or Italy next.

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Everton began Duncan Ferguson’s interim tenure by snapping a three-game losing skid with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over fourth-place Chelsea on Saturday.

Where it went wrong for Emery at Arsenal

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There were many highs and lows of Unai Emery‘s stewardship of Arsenal FC, but arguably the moment where things turned for the worst came away from the perfectly manicured grass at the Emirates Stadium.

Heading into the summer, it was clear that Arsenal needed more help defensively. Emery’s signings of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi were a good sign, showing that Arsenal was committed to finally plugging a hole in defensive midfield that hadn’t been filled since Patrick Vieira – former coach Arsene Wenger always preferred a Jorginho type passer in that position, but they’d be overrun against every big-six opponent.

[READ: Who are the favorites to replace Emery at Arsenal?]

But at centerback, the team was woefully overmatched. Shkodran Mustafi looked like a shell of himself, Laurent Koscielny was still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the run up to the 2018 World Cup, and prospect Rob Holding suffered a torn ACL, meaning he was out for the season.

So the last thing Emery could afford was losing one of his best remaining centerbacks, in maybe the worst way possible. And yet, that’s essentially what happened.

Koscielny returned to training on July 5, and per the Guardian, made it clear that if he didn’t have a new contract by next week, or perhaps at least some progress on a new deal, he would be holding out. That meant the Arsenal club captain wouldn’t be traveling with the squad to the U.S. for preseason training.

This seemed to take Arsenal’s leadership by surprise. In the 2018-2019 Premier League season, Aaron Ramsey and the club weren’t able to meet in the middle, and so Ramsey let his contract run out and freely traipsed to Juventus. But Ramsey never made a fuss on the training pitch over his contract negotiations. He was a professional on and off the field and let his play do the talking.

Koscielny, on the other hand, wasn’t having it. Perhaps emboldened by his stature at Arsenal and that a new manager was at the helm – would he have done this against Wenger? – Koscielny never got on the plane to America. One month later, he completed a permanent transfer to Bordeaux, and Emery never appeared to recover as Arsenal manager. Before the end of the calendar year, Arsenal fired Emery.

The Koscielny case – and other similar recent mishaps by Emery, such as the captaincy fiasco and freezing out Ozil only to bring him back in recently – paints a picture of Emery as a brilliant tactician with average to below average man management skills. We have that here in the U.S. There are plenty of brilliant minds who coach football and basketball, but devising clever plays is worthless if you can’t get your team to understand the plays and execute them. What makes coaches like Bill Belichick and Steve Kerr successful is getting the buy-in from their players and managing them along the way. Tactics is only half the battle.

On paper, even with a creaky defense and a young midfield, this Arsenal team shouldn’t be languishing in ninth place. But it was clear as the weeks went on that Emery was essentially powerless to stop the sieve of goals into Arsenal’s net. Each week it was a different culprit, whether David Luiz, Sokratis, new signing Kieran Tierney or Calum Chambers. Under another manager, perhaps those four could raise there level. Under Emery, with everyone seemingly playing just for themselves, their levels sunk below the opposition.

At the same time, despite the $87 million Arsenal committed to spend on new signing Nicolas Pepe to go with stars Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they didn’t click in attack as often as they should have. Aubameyang continues to score but his goals often grab a point or a late, often undeserved win, for the Gunners. They were not blowing teams apart even with their vast array of talented attackers.

Emery wasn’t all bad at Arsenal. He brought positivity back to the Emirates Stadium in the 2018-2019 season with his new energetic signings like Guendouzi and Torreira. Fans won’t soon forget the 4-2 win at home over Tottenham, where the roof nearly blew off on Torreira’s wonderful second half goal. There was also wins over Chelsea and Manchester United, plus Napoli and Valencia in the Europa League, but Arsenal was struggling in the Premier League around the time of the latter two wins.

Off the field, by all reports Emery was a true gentleman to everyone at the club. And although some disgustingly made fun of his accent, Emery always tried to communicate in English when he could have easily just brought along a translator for every interaction. He tried his best to integrate himself in the club and in England.

But this season, Emery could never find his mid-season momentum again from last year, and things began falling quickly. Emery will certainly get another opportunity to coach in top-flight football, and perhaps he’ll eventually learn from his mistakes. However, it’s a second-successive coaching failure in which Emery lost control of the locker room due to poor man management skills, and his firing was ultimately inevitable.

Arsenal players react on social media to Emery’s firing

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After taking some time to digest the news, many Arsenal players went public on social media with their thoughts on Unai Emery’s Friday firing.

In general, most of the players, even those who preceded Emery but mainly the ones he signed to the club, showed their appreciation for his faith in them as players. The players lamented almost to a whole that they weren’t able to deliver for Emery. The near-universal support for Emery is interesting, considering that Arsenal was regressing as the season went on.

Could it be that this team doesn’t have the talent to content for the Premier League top four? Or was Emery’s tactical ideas too difficult for the players to execute? Either way, Emery clearly made an impression on many of the players. It remains to be seen how the Gunners respond to this on Sunday at Norwich City.

Here’s a sampling of some Arsenal player’s responses on Friday afternoon.

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Coach, Thank you for all that you have done for me, I would never be grateful enough. You made me grow up as a football player but also as a man. I have progressed enormously and you helped me to take many steps forward. If I reached those levels today it’s thanks to you and your huge work you have done for me. You are a great man and a great coach. I wish you a lot of happiness and success in your future projects. Thank you for everything Coach 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽 Coach Merci pour tout ce que vous avez fait pour moi, je vous en serai jamais assez reconnaissant. Vous m’avez tellement fait grandir en tant que footballeur mais aussi en tant qu’homme. Si j’ai atteint ce niveau aujourd’hui c’est grâce à vous et votre travail. J’ai énormément progressé et franchi de nombreux paliers. Vous êtes un grand homme et un très grand coach. Je vous souhaite pleins de bonheur et de succès dans vos futurs projets. Merci Coach 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽 @unaiemery_

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Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil had a – slightly -different post-Emery message.

Emery writes letter to fans, club after sacking

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Arsenal published a letter ostensibly written by Unai Emery on Friday, in which he thanked the club for his chance to manage in the Premier League and urged Arsenal fans to back the players.

It’s a rare moment of class and gratitude from an outgoing manager, who usually has nothing nice to say about the club that’s called time on his or her job earlier than expected. In this case, Emery succinctly summed up his last 18 months at Arsenal, from taking over with high expectations to the club’s recent struggles both in the Premier League and in the Europa League.

With a previous track record of success at Sevilla, and at least winning league titles at PSG, it was expected that Emery could help take Arsenal back into being one of England’s top teams, one challenging for the title. And yet, replacing Arsene Wenger proved more difficult that expected.

It has been an honor to be the Arsenal head coach.

To all the fans, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping me to understand and feel the greatness of Arsenal. To all of you who have supported us from every corner of the globe, all of you who have come to the Emirates, all of you who have waited in the rain and cold just to greet me after a game. I want to tell all of you that I have worked with passion, with commitment and with effort.

I would have liked nothing more than to have achieved better results for you.

I also want to send a message of gratitude to all Arsenal employees for the way they have treated me. The greatness of Arsenal is in every director, executive, employee, assistant and volunteer.

In particular, I want to highlight Ivan Gazidis, who welcomed me to the club, and Raul Sanllehi, Edu and Vinai Venkatesham for their respect, companionship and help. Until the very last minute I have been treated with honor and honesty. And of course, I send my sincere gratitude to the Kroenke family, for their trust.

It has been a year and a half full of emotions, of great moments and some other more bitter ones, but not a single day has gone by without me stopping to think about how lucky I have been to work for this club with these players and their professional and personal qualities.

They have always honored the shirt they wear. They deserve your support.

I had already experienced a lot in football, but I have enjoyed and learned a lot in England, in the Premier League, about respect for professionals and about the purity of football.

My best wishes always.

COYG