It was news which many Gunners fans had been waiting for. It finally arrived in late November with a brief announcement on the official Arsenal website and app. Unai Emery was removed from his duties as the club’s head coach following a 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. It brought an end to the growing speculation surrounding the Spaniard but in many ways, it has raised more questions.
In the short-term, the Gunners moved quickly to appoint a temporary replacement. Former Invincible Freddie Ljungberg moved from one of Emery’s assistants to the interim head coach at the Emirates Stadium. It’s unclear how long he will spend in Arsene Wenger’s old office but for the time being, the Swede is in charge. He’s highly thought of at Arsenal but there are growing reports that the club is moving quickly behind the scenes to make a permanent appointment.
While all of this is going on, Arsenal are playing matches left, right, and centre. We’re entering the busy festive period and the Gunners haven’t won any of their last eight games in all competitions. Changing managers is a lot easier in the summer but it’s more difficult when the team has to prepare for a match every few days. Ljungberg has to stop the rot but he’s got his work cut out for him on all fronts.
Focus on Europe or The Premier League?
In the Premier League, Arsenal’s aim for this season is to finish in the top four. It is three consecutive seasons without Champions League football and the Gunners need to change that soon if they are to keep hold of their top players.
It’s clear that not everyone thinks things will change immediately. In an interview released on the Sky Sports YouTube Channel, pundits Jamie Carragher, Louis Saha, and Emile Heskey doubted Arsenal’s chances of reaching the top four this season.
But there are other ways of achieving Arsenal’s aims and qualifying for the Champions League. Going all the way in the Europa League would guarantee a spot in next season’s elite European club competition. They reached the final last season but can they go one step further this time around?
The bookmakers believe they’ve got a chance. A quick look at the 888Sport app android reveals that the Gunners are the joint 6/1 favourites to win the competition this season along with fellow English side Manchester United. Those odds weren’t affected by the 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt with the Gunners’ passage into the knockout stages all but assured.
But 6/1 is still fairly high. Elsewhere, the Gunners are massive 1/8 to not win a trophy at all this season. That wouldn’t be the biggest surprise following their collapse at the end of last term. The bookies seem to think that Arsenal’s best chance of success this season is via Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is 11/2 to be the Premier League’s top scorer.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how Arsenal cope in the coming weeks and months. It’s a hugely busy period for the Gunners on the pitch and off it, they’re beginning the arduous process of searching for a new head coach. They can’t afford to wait too long because, with each passing week, they’re slipping further away from their season goals. We’ll see in May if the decision of the Gunners’ hierarchy was the right one.