What’s Wrong at Arsenal? Where Did the Problems Begin?

By: Jordan Mallach, Staff Reporter

      Following a 22 game unbeaten streak, all seemed well at Arsenal last year in December 2018. However, looking under the hood, the astute fan could see that there were precarious cracks. Defensive problems that have plagued the Gunners for the best part of the past decade persisted. The team’s offense was over-reliant on its blistering front line of strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Head Coach Unai Emery was beginning to unsuccessfully drift away from Arsenal’s DNA of swift-flowing, ‘easy-on-the-eye’, and attractive attacking football, established and ingrained by Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign as the club’s previous and most successful manager. I suppose with Wenger is where the downfall of Arsenal Football Club began.

      As this piece is about the club’s current struggles, I will not delve too much into the many issues that Wenger left behind as the legacy of the latter decade of his time at Arsenal. However, there were some critical problems: the club revolved around him and his decision making, in a way that was no longer suitable for the modern European game, as Wenger had, for all intents and purposes, the final say on all matters; his reluctance to change his tactics to accommodate for the evolution of Premier League gameplay caused Arsenal’s success to stagnate; and, simply put, Wenger selfishly overstayed his welcome.

      Therefore, the man picked to replace the most legendary leader in Arsenal’s history had a massive job cut out for him. The transition necessary to alter Arsenal’s structure from one man’s spearheaded leadership to a more modern European continental-style of powerful backroom staff, composed of multiple directors and executives, overseeing a head coach, would be a massive endeavor. The incoming head coach would also have to decide whether to maintain Arsenal’s DNA or impose a new tactical approach and identity, neither being a risk-free choice. The appointed candidate would also have to satisfy the desires of a demanding Arsenal fanbase tired of watching their club decline in pedigree. I have not even approached the troubles caused by the seemingly unambitious ownership of the club – Stan Kroenke’s KSE (Kroenke Sports & Entertainment). These are just a few of the issues that immediately faced Unai Emery upon the Spaniard’s coronation as the new face of Arsenal in May of 2018.

      Taking all of this into account, it seems harsh to blame Unai Emery for his failed 18-month stint at the helm. He could not carry out his vision without encountering the harsh realities of the calamity that had developed over nearly a decade of mismanagement. However, Emery held partial responsibility for his demise.