When Unai Emery walked through the doors of the Emirates Stadium for the first time in May 2018, there was a glowing review from Ivan Gazidis.
In fact, the former Arsenal chief executive had words that a certain Arsene Wenger would have been excited to hear about himself.
“He has a fantastic record of success wherever he has gone and interestingly one of the noteworthy things about Unai’s teams in that they improve over time,” he said.
You look at that now and you can see the irony. Arsenal never improved over time and instead, they became worse, failing to win their final seven games under the former Sevilla coach.
It has been over a month since the Gunners last won and a variety of things said by the man now at AC Milan appear incredibly damning for Emery.
The meticulous planning behind his appointment now looks particularly strange too. A 100-page dossier was presented to the Kroenke’s as Gazidis admitted himself that it was a surprise.
“Perhaps there were a few rewrites necessary,” he noted. Indeed, the script has never really been followed since Wenger left and what’s happened since his disappearance from north London tells a sorry story.
For a period of time, however, Emery brought the Arsenal back that supporters all knew and loved. A 5-1 against Fulham was full of bustling energy, sensational attacking football and fluid transitions.
One of the goals, scored by Aaron Ramsey, was built upon the early philosophy the Spaniard adopted. Starting with the goalkeeper, the ball was played out from the back before a combination of tricks and flicks ended in a goal.
It was Emery-ball at its absolute finest. Unfortunately, it was seldom replicated thereafter.
The damning thing about that day was the fact Arsenal ended up conceding 21 shots to the Cottagers. That set the tone for what became a common theme in the final months of his tenure in N5.
The Islington club became one of the worst defensively in Europe. At one point, they’d conceded the most shots of anyone in the top five leagues on the continent.
If that Fulham game was the sign of fans getting their Arsenal back, it was also a quick glance of what was to come.
Upon being appointed, Gazidis had the following to say about the process involved in hiring the former PSG man:
“We had some clear criteria that we were looking for in our selection. The first was progressive, entertaining football, a personality that fits with Arsenal’s values and also a record of developing players, particularly young players through detailed tactical instruction and also through cultural demands, pushing players, demanding more from them.”
Emery may have brought through the likes of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock into more prominent roles but progressive and entertaining was as far from the Spaniard as you could get.
His personality didn’t fit Arsenal’s values and neither did his football. Ultimately, it was the wrong fit and his demise in the capital was hardly surprising.
Under Wenger, the Gunners played some of the most free-flowing and joyous football in the league. A mess in defence, it was an aspect that was never corrected by the now-departed manager and in fact, he took the club backwards.
This was meant to be a fresh start, time was willing to be given but with the clock ticking that quickly faded. The banners were back out and a rather empty stadium was the focal point of a lacklustre 2-1 defeat against Frankfurt.
The Europa League specialist was now even losing at his own game. There was only ever one way his tenure could end, and that was with him being sacked.
Emery was a gentleman, a humble and respectful 48-year-old who simply didn’t suit the club and the direction it wants to go in. But that final aspect of his personality was ultimately his downfall.
He became so focused on the opposition and the respect he was showing them that he seemingly forgot how to put his own team together. The analysis Gazidis spoke about when he took over had completely swamped him. There was no unity, the morale was shot to pieces and even the supporters stopped attending.
It’s a sad way for Emery’s time at the club to come to an end but pulling the plug now was undoubtedly the right option.
Who walks in next must be Arsenal’s true catalyst for change. More words once muttered by Gazidis, they must find someone who truly does fit the values. Again, those words are ironic. Wenger leaving was meant to the first catalyst but there has been a distinct lack of a positive difference since he did.
Will interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg be the one to bring back the good times? Only time will tell but the likes of Edu and Raul Sanllehi have a huge job on their hands.
They must do better than what was managed by Gazidis last year or even further uproar will be aimed at board level.