Arsenal head coach, Unai Emery, is facing the prospect of his first season in charge at the Emirates Stadium falling to pieces with squad members and fans being left confused by some of his recent selections and tactics.
What had looked like a strong campaign after a run of victories had seen them reach third-place in the Premier League, the Gunners’ have since slipped to heavy defeats at Wolves and Leicester, as well as suffering a home defeat against Crystal Palace. That poor run of form has now left their summer transfer plans in chaos while they wait to see if they will qualify for the Champions League, whilst the club is still trying to appoint a director of football.
Arsenal have insisted that planning for the summer has already begun without someone in place, but it is known that Emery was angry that the Gunners missed out on hiring Monchi, who he had worked alongside at Sevilla.
Head of football, Raul Sanllehi, has now turned his attentions to Marseille sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, having worked with him at Barcelona, but progress has been slow and other clubs in Europe are now interested.
Even former head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, left in February after having no say on the disastrous loan signing of midfielder Denis Suarez, which Emery pushed through, but who has confirmed he will leave the Gunners without starting a single game.
Away from the off-field issues, Arsenal had built up some real momentum after an impressive Europa League victory over Napoli which has taken them to the semi-finals of Europe’s second biggest club tournament, but the 3-2 defeat to Palace at the Emirates Stadium really took the wind out of their sails and the Gunners’ went on to concede three goals in their next two defeats.
The team selection for the home defeat to Crystal Palace was bizarre, as Mohamed Elneny played alongside Matteo Guendouzi in midfield, and Carl Jenkinson started at right wing-back. Emery has also backed defender, Shkodran Mustafi, despite some well documented errors, and this has seen his side go out the back foot in their successive away defeats to Wolves and Leicester.
The warning signs were there as at his previous club, Sevilla, they went an entire league season without winning an away game under Emery and there is a suspicion that he pays too much attention to the opposition when his teams play away from home.
Emery’s first season in charge had been encouraging, but the Gunners’ hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League are dwindling, which means their Europa League campaign has taken on even greater significance.
Whether or not Arsenal qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League or by finishing in the top four will have a massive bearing on the club’s transfer budget. Arsenal need to recognise that the next few weeks and how they finish this season not only impacts their next campaign, but it will do for years to come too.