Unai Emery’s sacking arrived too late but at least it arrived

The announcement came late, too late in truth, but at least it came; Unai Emery has been sacked.

In terms of our Champions League aspirations, I think our season may be beyond salvaging at this point – particularly given the form of three of the current top four teams in the Premier League.

But in order to move forward, and perhaps even have a tilt at an unlikely top-four spot, Emery needed to leave and it was with some relief that the news broke at about 10am today.

The last straw was our miserable Europa League defeat at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurst on Thursday – a match played out in front of our two-thirds empty Emirates Stadium.

It was supposed to be a lifeline game for Emery, a final chance to hang on to his job and, at last, build some momentum. Sadly, though, even a home fixture in which we only needed a draw was beyond him.

All his hopes came crashing down around him in a 15-minute period of the second half in which Frankfurt, who had been utterly abject in the first half, pushed up 10 yards and took us to the cleaners.

One simple tactical adjustment by their manager and they made us look weak, rudderless and pathetic and, in truth, that is exactly what we were. It was the dying whimper of an era that had run its course.

To anyone with eyes or ears, this outcome had been inevitable for six weeks at the least. It became obvious in the aftermath of our capitulation at Vicarage Road that something was badly wrong with this side and, as many predicted, the problem steadily worsened until it became dangerously bad.

For all his efforts to turn things around, Emery was ultimately unable to have any demonstrable affect on his squad, regardless of formation, personnel, tactics, or mentality, the outcome was the same every time.

This team was consistently out-thought and out-muscled, it conceded shots on goal at an alarming rate, created next to nothing, and was careless in possession. This was more than just a lack of balance in attack or defence, this was an utter desolation. This team had almost nothing going for it in terms of style or substance, it just existed.

Emery’s era was supposed to be about organisation, efficiency and tactical flexibility. In the end, it was confused and directionless, more so than it had ever been under Arsene Wenger.

That’s not to say we never should have parted company with Arsene in the first place – a change had to be made – more that Emery was simply not up to the job. Whatever it is he offered the board in that now infamous job interview, it was smoke and mirrors. When it came down to it, Emery addressed none of the issues that plagued the latter years of Arsene’s reign.

In the end, I don’t think too many people are angry or upset with Emery. Clearly, he tried his best, tried everything he could think of to make things work, but he was out of his depth. The anger that swelled in the last month or so was directed at the ‘football executive committee’, which stood by and whistled as Emery tried to fight an inferno with a damp tea towel.

All the good will the committee built up over the summer has gone and clawing even a little of that back will very much depend on what they do next. Dithering too long over Emery’s sacking – as if the Spaniard was somehow going to turn around a runaway train packed full of steaming shit – has seen them thrust into the spotlight and they will now have to move carefully indeed if they are to remain in the nests they have nicely feathered for themselves.

In the meantime, Freddie Ljungberg will take the reins for this weekend’s trip to Norwich. As popular a figure as the 42-year-old is around Arsenal, it will be some feat if he can come away from Carrow Road with three points, particularly given his glaring lack of experience managing at the top level.

Will we see some new manager bounce? All of us hope so but, in truth, the issues that remain in the squad may linger a little longer than a few days.

That said, the first step towards addressing those issues has been taken and the terrible gloom hanging over the club can at last be allowed to lift. The club has acted too late, but at least it has stopped the rot while there remained something left to rot. Hopefully, it is upwards from here.

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