The Hard Tackle brings you a complete throwback of Arsenal during the calendar year of 2019, including the sacking of Unai Emery.
Arsenal had quite a disappointing year as far as 2019 is concerned. Although they did manage to finish in a respectable fifth position under Unai Emery last season, the club overall achieved very little and was marred by mediocrity.
There were exciting times too, including an incredible comeback win over Standard Liege in the UEFA Europa League. Their spending spree in the summer also delighted a host of Arsenal fans, especially with the Gunners beating many top clubs across Europe to sign Nicolas Pepe.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will dive deep into the top five highlights for Arsenal during the calendar year of 2019.
Not even two years into his Arsenal contract, 2019 saw the fans once again coming out in numbers to protest against manager Emery. The #EmeryOut tag soon became a trend at the Emirates as well as on Twitter, following Arsenal’s woeful performances during the second half of the 2018/19 campaign.
The Gunners lost six Premier League matches since January till the end of last season, which played a crucial role in helping arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur secure the fourth spot, thanks to a one-point lead.
And this season, Arsenal were just miserable following a promising start to the campaign especially during the final phase of his managerial stint. Emery secured only one win in his last seven Premier League games in charge of Arsenal.
Hence, the decision to sack the Spaniard came as a sigh of relief not only for the fans but also for the board. It was a pivotal moment of Arsenal’s story in 2019 and the one that probably helped them get rid of one of their many problems.
An exciting summer
Prior to the sacking of Emery, Arsenal fans enjoyed an exciting summer transfer window. The Gunners went out all guns blazing in the market, The arrival of Brazilian gem Gabriel Martinelli didn’t necessarily make any waves. But, it was followed by the arrival of Dani Ceballos on loan during the end of July.
Arsenal also announced the signing of Willam Saliba, though the Frenchman was sent back to St. Etienne on a season-long loan deal due to contractual obligations. However, it was the acquisition of Nicolas Pepe that really made a huge impact across Europe.
The Ivorian was courted by several top clubs, but his decision to join Arsenal was undoubtedly an exciting moment for the fans. He joined for a club-record fee of a reported €80 million. A week later, the club also announced the arrivals of defensive duo David Luiz and Kieran Tierney, who was also courted by many clubs.
Overall, Emery spent €150 million to sign no less than six quality individuals – making Arsenal one of the busiest teams in the summer transfer window.
Mesut Ozil and everything else
2019 was a disappointing year for Arsenal superstar Mesut Ozil, and Emery’s lack of favour towards the German playmaker created a division between the fans. One set of fans wanted him to be removed from the squad, mainly due to his incredibly high wages while the other argued that the ex-Real Madrid star still had the quality to make a difference.
In any case. As much as Ozil’s on-field performances and relationship with Emery and fans were an issue, it was one that was completely overshadowed by an event that saw him get attacked by moped thugs. He was fortunately saved by the heroism of teammate Sead Kolasinac, who confronted the carjackers.
It was a dark moment not only for Ozil but also for his fans. But, the following month, the German was once again in the thick of things after making a political statement that once again divided his fanbase.
Granit Xhaka: good or evil?
While Ozil faced several external issues in 2019, midfielder Granit Xhaka was virtually in war with Arsenal fans midway through the 2019/20 campaign. Much like Ozil, the Swiss international has always had a divided fanbase due to his mixed performances at Arsenal.
When the Gunners were struggling to win on a regular basis, especially in October and November when the club secured only one win in the Premier League, fans seemingly looked frustrated with Xhaka’s inconsistency in the middle of the park.
And in the game against Crystal Palace on 27th October, the midfielder was rightly booed when he was subbed off in the 61st minute. However, Xhaka was caught cursing back at his fans – an action that saw him being left out of the team for the next three matches. He was also relieved of his role as club captain.
But on a more important note, it showcased the mediocrity Arsenal were in under Emery. Fortunately for the Gunners, Xhaka has improved a lot since and a shift in attitude has been evident ever since the Spaniard has left the helm.
The appointment of Arteta
While everything in 2019 seemed to head into the wrong direction, the appointment of Mikel Arteta in December gave Arsenal fans a new ray of hope. The ex-midfielder, who gained a massive reputation for his work with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, returned to Emirates. Only this time, he was appointed as the new head coach, taking over charge from interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.
Arteta was quick to signal the changes he was going to make, with more emphasis on improving the defence rather than unnecessarily stacking the attacking department. And it looks like the risky decision to appoint the inexperienced Arteta as the new boss might pay off for Arsenal.
The Gunners have played really well under the Spaniard, notably securing a 2-0 win over Manchester United. They also showed excellent character against Leeds United in the FA Cup. Hence, it will be interesting to see in which direction the club will move forward under the leadership of Arteta in the near future.