Football News

Unai Emery questions attitude of Arsenal players as he defends Gunners reign

By Steve Jennings

Published: 20:00, 11 February 2020

Unai Emery has defended his tumultuous 18-month reign as Arsenal manager, suggesting some of his players did not have the right attitude before he was sacked this season.

Emery took over from Arsene Wenger in the summer of 2018 but was dismissed in November last year after overseeing a disappointing start to the current campaign.

What went wrong for Emery at Arsenal? Five things to know…

  • After a disappointing end to Wenger’s tenure, Arsenal gradually improved when Emery took over at the beginning of last season.
  • However, a disappointing end to the Premier League campaign saw the Gunners fail to catch rivals Chelsea and Tottenham in the race for a top four finish.
  • Arsenal also lost 4-1 to Chelsea in the Europa League final, ending their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
  • Despite spending big on the likes of Nicolas Pepe in the summer, Arsenal sat in mid-table when Emery was sacked in November.
  • The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain manager has now come out in defence of the work he did at the Emirates.

The Gunners were expected to build on last season’s fifth-place finish in the Premier League this term after breaking their transfer record to sign Nicolas Pepe in the summer and bringing in other stars such as David Luiz.

But Emery was accused of losing the dressing room as Arsenal slumped to a mid-table position, giving the club’s board no choice but to part ways with the Spaniard.

Despite receiving plenty of criticism for his role in the team’s poor start to the campaign, Emery has now defended the work he did at the Emirates and placed some of the blame at the feet of certain players.

“Arsenal was a club on a downward slope for two years before I arrived,” Emery told France Football.

“We stopped this fall and even began to rebuild the club with the Europa League final and fifth place in the league, only one point off of Tottenham despite the fact that we took just one point in our final five matches.

“We had Champions League qualification in our grasp and it went wrong in the end. But it was a good season and we had this notion of continuing to improve.

“But we lost our four captains: [Laurent] Koscielny, [Petr] Cech, [Aaron] Ramsey and [Nacho] Monreal. They were personalities that we missed this season to stay on the right track. And some stars did not have a good attitude and asked for more than what they were giving back.”

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Emery: Pepe was club’s signing but needed time

Emery went on to reveal the signing of Pepe from Lille was the club’s decision, suggesting his sacking was unfair as Pepe – who was brought in to be a key player – needed time to adapt.

He added: “We needed time to succeed with our transition to a new Arsenal which is what I wanted. For example, Nicolas Pepe, who was the club’s choice, clearly needed time to adapt.

“But I accept the rule of thumb and that I am poorly placed to criticise because I also benefited from such judgement in the past.

“I obviously am partly responsible, but you see that the team has not exactly done better since I left.”