Reflecting on Unai Emery's first season
Even the most anti-Arsene Wenger supporters will agree that Unai Emery's first season at Arsenal hasn't gone according to plan.
For the best part of a decade, the Arsenal fanbase appeared to be one of the most fractured in the Premier League. On one side, you had the staunch supporters of Arsene Wenger; on the other side the contrarian fans who wanted a change. Those who were in support of Wenger still today believe that the Frenchman helped rebuild their club into one of the continent's biggest sides and deserved to keep his role at the club. On the other side of the spectrum, those who wanted Wenger out took the opinion that the manager had too much power at the club and wanted a change. After Unai Emery's first season as a replacement, we reflect on the successes and failures and what to expect next season.
The Results - C+
Unai Emery brought a breath of fresh air to the club on his arrival. All the way through to December, the Gunners were in a rich vein of form and appeared to have banked Champions League football early on. The fans were delighted, Emery already appeared to enjoy cult hero status at the club. Domestically the Gunners were strong at home and away, despite having generally the same group of players as Arsene had pulled together. Then a frightening turn of results saw Arsenal begin to struggle. Results rapidly tapered off into 2019; Arsenal's away form deteriorating with it. As the end of the season approached, Arsenal lost all confidence and despite their rivals all succumbing to regular defeat, the Gunners remarkably lost their final three games to miss out on Champions League football by just a point. Emery, a Europa League specialist having won the tournament three times, missed out on another championship medal by finishing runners up to Chelsea in the final. Emery will be very disappointed with his team's end of season capitulation, but hopeful that a squad revamp can reverse Arsenal fortunes in 2019/20.
The Players - D-
Unai Emery appeared to fail to work out who was his preferred starting XI throughout the season. At one point, leaving Mesut Ozil on the bench, before bringing the German back in; it looked as if Emery couldn't decide if he was capable of performing at the higest level. Aaron Ramsey too was put on to the bench and had his contract extension pulled off of the table, a shocking decision by Arsenal as Ramsey appeared to be the best midfielder in the team. Ramsey would later move on to Serie A giants Juventus. Finally, despite regular mistakes from Granit Xhaka and Shkrodan Mustafi, Emery appeared to stick with the two players throughout the season. Many are wondering if Emery still hasn't worked out who his best 11 is. Emery will need to assess who are the right players to keep and to let go. It will be crucial that he brings in new faces this summer; players he knows well.
The Signings - B-
Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno were both important players throughout the season, despite Torreira's gradual dip in form towards the turn of the year. It could be argued that Emery does not have the authorative power in terms of signings, but he is the man who signs off on the acquistions and if they fit his squad. Emery will be pleased with the players that he has brought in. However, signings such as Denis Suarez - who failed to start one Premier League game - drop this ranking down to a B-. Suarez was surely an Emery acquisition, having managed him at Sevilla previously.
Overall, many fans will feel that Emery has done just enough to keep his role for the upcoming campaign. It is certain that Emery will need to invest in his squad, but without Champions League football Arsenal will be hard pushed to find the funds as well as attract the talent needed to challenge for a Premier League title push. Expect another difficult year for Arsenal unless money is spent.