Arsenal head coach Unai Emery is facing a fight to prevent his first season in charge falling apart amid doubts surrounding his team selections and tactics.
And the Gunners’ summer plans are in danger of slipping into limbo while the club try to appoint a director of football and wait to find out whether or not they will qualify for the Champions League.
Some members of the current squad have been left confused by Emery’s team selections and set-up over Arsenal’s three-game losing run that has put his first season in charge on the brink of collapse.
His selection for the home defeat to Crystal Palace, when Mohamed Elneny played next to Matteo Guendouzi in midfield, and Carl Jenkinson started a right wing-back, was particularly bizarre.
© getty Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette is substituted off as Arsenal manager Unai Emery looks on.Arsenal had momentum following an impressive Europa League victory over Napoli, but the Palace result knocked the wind out of their sails and Emery’s side have now conceded three goals in all three of their defeats.
Emery has backed defender Shkodran Mustafi, despite his errors, and has sent his team out on the back foot in successive away defeats to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City.
Sevilla went an entire league season without winning an away game under Emery and there is frustration that he worries too much about the opposition when his team play away from the Emirates.
Arsenal have been insistent that planning for the summer has commenced without a director of football, even though Emery is understood to have been upset that the Gunners missed out on hiring Monchi, who he worked successfully alongside at Sevilla.
© getty Unai Emery remonstrates with referee Michael Oliver.Head of football Raul Sanllehi is now keen on Marseille sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, having worked with the former goalkeeper at Barcelona, but progress has been slow and there is a fear Arsenal could fall behind their rivals in the race to secure new players.
Arsenal still hope to make an appointment, but Emery has put off decisions over potential transfer targets while he attempts to secure qualification for the Champions League and waits to find out who will take over recruitment.
Sven Mislintat left his job as head of recruitment in February, having had no say in the disastrous January loan signing of midfielder Denis Suarez, who has confirmed he will leave the Gunners without starting a single game due to a season-ending groin injury.
Having played just 95 minutes for Arsenal, which cost the club over £3 million in a loan fee and wages, Suarez said: “I will not be able to play again this season. Some issues with my groin have made things tough since the game against BATE in the Europa League in February and now they have forced me to stop training altogether.
© getty Arsenal still hope to make an appointment, but Emery has put off decisions over potential transfer targets while he attempts to secure qualification for the Champions League and waits to find out who will take over recruitment.“I am sorry for all the effort and sacrifice made to come to Arsenal hasn’t come to fruition as hoped and you can’t even imagine how angry I am about it, but health comes first.”
Emery pushed through the Suarez signing himself, which has raised concerns among supporters over who will get the final say over incoming players during the summer and sources claim that little headway has been made in recent meetings over possible signings.
Arsenal had been confident they had landed Monchi and had even lined up somewhere for him to live before the 50-year-old had a change of heart and decided to return to Sevilla.
Emery’s first season in charge had been encouraging until three successive defeats, the latest of which came against Leicester on Sunday, left it in danger of falling apart.
© getty Emery has backed defender Shkodran Mustafi, despite his errors, and has sent his team out on the back foot in successive away defeats to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City.With the Gunners’ hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League table fading, the Europa League has taken on even greater significance ahead of the first leg of their semi-final against Valencia on Thursday night.
Whether or not Arsenal qualify for the Champions League will have a significant bearing on the club’s transfer budget, but they still need to start planning for either scenario.
With Aaron Ramsey leaving for Juventus, Emery wants a new box-to-box midfielder, a wide forward, with Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser one player who has already been discussed, and a left-back depending on the funds available.