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The rise and fall of Unai Emery

Arsenal, Unai Emery (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Unai Emery spent 18 months as Arsenal’s head coach. Here, we chart the rise and fall of the Spaniard as he attempted to lead the club out of Arsene Wenger’s shadow.

In 2018, for the first time in 22 years, Arsenal went on the hunt for a new manager. Former boss Arsene Wenger’s legacy is engraved in north London forever, but he stepped down after a middling conclusion to his tenure. The club chose Unai Emery, the tactical Spaniard that led numerous teams to success, especially in the Europa League, prior to his Premier League appointment. Emery’s career docket includes major stints at Almeria (where he pushed them to La Liga promotion for the first time in club history), Valencia, Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain. It was after his contract expired in Paris when he signed as Arsenal’s new manager.

The club’s selection seemed to veer towards experience and proven success. Emery displayed an innate ability to win European cups, something that Wenger never accomplished. He won two successive domestic trebles with PSG and was roundly applauded for how competitive he made Valencia and Sevilla, winning three successive Europa Leagues with the latter. He brought with him the capacity to take Arsenal to new heights.

But could he fulfil those expectations? Here we recount the rise and fall of Emery at Arsenal.

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 25: Arsenal manager Head coach Unai Emery during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on August 25, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

The Setup

Emery’s first few games as the Arsenal manager were a struggle, but not unexpected. He opened his tenure against Manchester City and Chelsea. Both teams beat Emery’s side. They would also both finish in the top four that year.

After the opening two losses, the Gunners won 11 straight and played 22 games without losing. The winning streak was their best run of form in over 10 years. During this streak, Arsenal fans were treated to outings like a 5-1 clobbering of Fulham, pure team goals in a 3-1 victory over Leicester City, and a 4-2 comeback win in Emery’s first North London Derby against Tottenham.

By January 1, the start of 2019, Emery had the backing of the club, most of the players, and many supporters. The club had reconstructed its poor start into thriving Premier League play with just two losses since August. Emery also led them to an unbeaten Europa League campaign through the group stage.

At this point, it seemed Emery’s transformation of the club was underway. He had made an effort to embrace the young players at the club and incorporate them into his plans. By the end of 2018, Matteo Guendouzi, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka all made their senior debuts, and Guendouzi and Smith Rowe each scored their first goal as a Gunner.

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