Standing shooting the breeze at half-time on Thursday night, in a humiliatingly half-empty stadium, the like of which we’d not seen since the inauguration of the Gunners new home in 2006, it couldn’t have possibly been more glaringly obvious that Unai Emery’s number was up.
A warning to all those disenchanted Arsenal fans heaving a sigh of relief that the Unai Emery era has drawn to a close: while there are a number of credible candidates who could take his place, I don’t think there is a manager out there possessed of the kind of magic wand which would be needed to cure all the club’s ills overnight. Or, for that matter, any time soon.
Statistics don’t always tell the whole story but David Luiz has a right to point to them when he turns up at Anfield with new club Arsenal still being billed as the Premier League’s defensive comedy routine up against the country’s best centre-back, Virgil van Dijk.
The pressure is on Unai Emery to deliver at Arsenal this season. Failure to finish in the top four or win a trophy could signal an abrupt end for Arsene Wenger’s successor at London’s biggest club. Wenger’s early success and general brilliance ultimately afforded him 22 years running football affairs so replacing him was always going to be a challenge despite fortunes waning towards the end of his reign.
The Sunday newspapers may have made difficult reading for Chelsea and their Italian manager but the chants of ‘Antonio, Antonio’ ringing around Stamford Bridge during a routine 3-0 FA Cup fourth round victory over Newcastle suggest it is too early to write off Antonio Conte’s future in west London just yet. Transfer deadline day, mind you, looks likely to provide a better barometer.
The January transfer window has not yet opened and already a huge deal has been agreed, with Virgil van Dijk heading from Southampton to Liverpool for what is understood to be £75million, the highest price ever paid for a defender.