Unai Emery: “Arsenal didn’t protect me”, He Reveals How he Failed to Get Zaha

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Former Arsenal coach Unai Emery has lamented how the management of Arsenal football club failed to protect him while at Arsenal. He said whenever he asked for their support, they will tell him that they were with him but do otherwise afterwards.

Recall that the 48-year-old Spanish football manager brought back the best days of football to the Emirate at the beginning of his first season at the club, 2018-2019 season. He led the team to their first Europa League final in 13 years but lost it to their north London rivals Chelsea football club.

As Unai Emery was licking his wound for the lost to Chelsea he was also licking his wound for losing out of a Champions League spot in the Premier League table. On the road to such woes, the Former Paris Saint- Germain coach lost three Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester in one week and ended the week with a draw against Brighton.

From that point to the beginning of the 2019-2020 season, Arsenal fans switched from chanting that Unai Emery has brought back the kind of Arsenal they used to enjoy, to chanting that the Spanish tactician should leave the club. Unfortunately for the coach, the poor run of games continued in the 2019-2020 season which ultimately forced him out of the club in November 2019.

“Indeed,” Unai Emery told the Guardian. “At every club, I’ve been protected: Lorca, Almería, Valencia, PSG. At Sevilla I had Monchi. At PSG Nasser al-Khelaifi protected me in the dressing room and publicly. At Arsenal they weren’t able to, maybe because they came from [Arsene] Wenger [his predecessor at Arsenal], who did everything. They’d say: ‘We’re with you’ but in front of fans and the dressing room, they couldn’t protect me. Truth is, I felt alone. And the results dictated I had to go.

“But, look, I was happy at Arsenal and I remember the good things. The first year was magnificent, I gave opportunities to young players: Bukayo [Saka] played eight minutes and never touched the ball but that was the first step for a 17-year-old who’s going to be great. Bernd Leno has grown. [Joe] Willock, Reiss Nelson, [Eddie] Nketiah, [Gabriel] Martinelli. Mattéo Guendouzi did very well, Lucas [Torreira]. It’s rewarding seeing them grow. And [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang got 31 goals and was top scorer, [Alexandre] Lacazette scored 19 and gave 13 assists.

“All that was missing was Aubameyang scoring that penalty against Tottenham: two extra points for Champions League qualification. Or beating Brighton and Palace. We couldn’t finish the job and then there were mistakes. I’m self-critical; at certain moments I couldn’t get results. I enjoyed the Emirates. I still follow Arsenal. They’re making changes. [Mikel] Arteta was the right choice … I spoke to him around Christmas. I want the best for him and for Arsenal.”

Unai Emery Laments His Failure to get Wilfred Zaha

Unai Emery and Wilfred Zaha
Unai Emery and Wilfred Zaha

In every club, when the team is not playing well, the coach is always blamed. Arsenal fans believe that the hard times the club experienced in 2019 was solely the fault of Unai Emery. Though the coach has taken responsibility for his failure at the club, yet, he wants the world to know that his perceived unsuccessful time at Arsenal was not solely his fault.

For instance, he said after the terrible outing the club had in the 2018-2019 season, he decided that the club needed ready-made players that can bring instant impact. One of the players he strongly believed could help the club was Crystal Palace star, Wilfried Zaha.

Unfortunately for Emery, the management of the club felt it was better to invest in the future instead of an instant result. Hence, they went for a youngster Nicolas Pépé for a club-record £72m and overlooked Emery’s request for Zaha. One of the reasons why Zaha was overlooked could be the £100m asking price for the forward.

“We signed Pépé. He’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he needs time, patience,” Emery said. “I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn’t need to adapt. Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances. I told them: ‘This is the player I know and want.’

“I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pépé was one for the future. I said: ‘Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games.’ He beat us on his own.

“It’s also true he was expensive and Palace didn’t want to sell. There were a series of decisions that had repercussions.”

Well, the rest is history. Emery is still out of job since November while his successor, Mikel Arteta has been battling to steady the ship at the club and probably push them beyond their 9 position of the league table when the season restarts.