The former Gunners boss has revealed the critical point on the road to his exit from north London in November following a poor run of form
Unai Emery has opened up on how his tenure at Arsenal all went wrong so quickly following his exit from the Emirates Stadium earlier this month.
The Spaniard was appointed last season to succeed Arsene Wenger and arrived in north London with high expectations following silverware-laden spells with Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain.
But other than a runners-up finish in the Europa League, his first term in charge of the Gunners underwhelmed in some quarters, with Emery failing to take them back into the top four of the Premier League.
A mixed start to the current campaign sealed his fate and he was given the boot in November after taking only three points from a run of five top-flight games during the autumn, despite the firepower up front of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette.
Speaking out on why his side failed to kick on from a European final in May, Emery admitted that his side’s loss to newly-promoted Sheffield United, on the heels of October’s international break, felt like the catalyst for their unravelling.
“This season, theoretically, we began well and I had the feeling – and so did the club – that the achievements of the previous season were valued,” he told BBC Sport.
“We were now looking to how we could develop together even to the point where they were looking to offer a renewed contract.
“Then I remember we had one month that the frustrations from bad results were beginning to make us worse for the following matches.
“We were losing confidence and a bit of stability. The game against Sheffield United was a bit of a turning point. In one month, everything got broken.
“We were incapable of winning a game in seven and the tension based on the question we were asking ‘what’s happening to us?’ was like a rolling ball that was just getting bigger and bigger.
“The truth is that the coach is the first person to come into the spotlight. I’ve had it at other clubs and managed to conquer it by getting the team back on track, but at Arsenal that month was terrible. We had to win to regain our emotional equilibrium, to get rid of that frustration, and we couldn’t.
“I spoke to the players three or four weeks before the process began to tell them that things were not going well and that I couldn’t see the team I pictured on the field of play
“We looked for solutions. At times defensively we had to be stronger, so we went with three central defenders. We were trying to find a way to tactically synergise Auba, Ozil and Lacazette so that everyone could play the best possible in their position and the results still didn’t come.”
Emery admitted that perhaps his side’s Europa League exertions cost them domestically last season, when they finished a point shy of qualifying for the Champions League, something cloaked by their route to the final in Baku.
“Perhaps the efforts we made in the Europa League left us with too much to do,” he added. “We were in the top four for the last games and effectively we lost it at home in two games against Brighton, which we drew, and against Crystal Palace, where we lost.
“But it’s true that I was very satisfied with how things went because I believe we learned how to become a team. A team that shone, a team that was effective and competitive – and a team that, in general, looked like one that showed why Arsenal signed me.
“[We] played in the final against Chelsea where we had a great first half in a tactical sense, and where, in my opinion, we could have taken control of the game. However, in the second half Hazard separated both sides and they won the match.
“And then, in the league, we swam right up to the shore and died on the beach.”