Were Arsenal right to pull the plug on Unai Emery?
By Joe Harker
Arsenal have sacked Unai Emery, the manager they thought would guide them into something new beyond the reign of Arsene Wenger.
He leaves them eighth in the Premier League table with just four wins from 14 games and fans concerned that the club is going in the wrong direction in their post-Wenger rebuild.
Former Arsenal player Freddie Ljungberg is running things until a permanent manager can be found, though if he does well enough he might get the job himself.
Was it the right decision from Arsenal to sack Emery, or will his successor have similar struggles?
Phil McNulty of the BBC writes that Arsenal are having similar problems to Manchester United in attempting to rebuild the club after the departure of a legendary manager whose influence extended to almost every area.
McNulty said "everything went wrong" for Emery and suggested that the manager was unable to correct the flaws which had become deep-seated over the past few years at Arsenal.
Emery's job as Wenger's immediate replacement was to "clear the air, to move Arsenal out of Wenger's giant shadow and plot a route forward". McNulty says the manager "failed on all counts" with any semblance of improvement turning out to be a succession of false dawns.
Wenger's Arsenal had a soft underbelly and were dogged by accusations of mental fragility. Emery's Arsenal have the exact same problems, meaning the manager has been unable to change the fundamental problems at the club after 18 months in charge.
"Same old Arsenal" was not good enough for Wenger in his final seasons at the club, so they were certainly not going to be good enough for Emery.
The Counter Claim:
However, Jonathan Wilson of The Guardian writes that the manager is carrying the can for systemic failures which have crept into Arsenal.
The club was soft because the players the managers had at their disposal were soft, the backroom structure designed to propel Arsenal into one of the foremost European clubs was botched.
If two supposedly different managers fail in the same way then it's not unreasonable to ask whether the actually issues lie elsewhere.
Fundamental problems at a club are hard for a manager to shift when the job is becoming ever more like a head coach and less like someone empowered to run the place like a feudal King.
Managers stuck in badly run clubs have to succeed in spite of those around them and hope they are given the time to make backroom changes over time, eventually transforming the club into a much more stable outfit.
Arsenal won the exact same amount of points in Emery's 51 Premier League games as Arsene Wenger did in his last 51, and the seven game run without a win is something the Frenchman never experienced in over 1,230 games at the helm.
The club are considering a number of candidates for the next manager, with Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers one of their preferred targets if Ljungberg doesn't make his mark in the short term.