Arsenal 'very happy' with Emery, says MD

The knives were out for Arsenal manager Unai Emery, after their 2-2 draw at Watford last Sunday.

Former Gunner Paul Merson blamed the result on Emery, while a British publication reported that the odds of the Spaniard being sacked have been slashed.

But Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham has backed Emery as the man to lead the Gunners back into the Champions League. Even though the 47-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season, the club have the option to extend for another year.

"Absolutely, we are very comfortable with him and his coaching staff. We think he is doing an excellent job, so we are very happy," Venkatesham told The Straits Times at the All That Matters conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, on Tuesday.

"When we appointed Unai, the team that worked on that looked at lots of different attributes that we felt we want to have in our head coach.

"One of them was, we want a coach who was willing, able, and had a track record of playing young players, because that is an important part of Arsenal Football Club."

Emery has shown he is not afraid of throwing young players who have risen through the ranks at the club into the deep end.

The likes of 22-year-old right-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles and 19-year-old forward Reiss Nelson have featured in his starting XI this season, as has midfielder Joe Willock, 20, who was recently rewarded with a contract extension.

Venkatesham insists it is possible for the English Premier League team to combine their youth focus and quest for trophies.

He said: "First, it is financially efficient. The more players you have coming from the academy, the more funds you can then use to invest in the transfer window because you then have a budget that is being stretched among fewer players.

"More important than that is we want players in the dressing room who really understand what it means to play for Arsenal, players who have grown up with the club."

This does not mean the North London side are averse to splashing the cash. This summer, they signed Ivory Coast forward Nicolas Pepe for a club-record £72 million (S$123.3 million), among others.

And they offloaded almost 20 players - including Laurent Koscielny, Alex Iwobi and David Ospina - which helped them save about £45 million in wages.

Venkatesham said: "What we analysed is the players whose playing time for the coming season is going to be limited.

"It is not good for the players to not play many minutes, it is not great for the club to have players who are not contributing.

"We try to find a solution... the players that have gone on loan and the players we sold create a relatively significant wage savings or income that help offset some of the investments we made."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2019, with the headline Arsenal 'very happy' with Emery, says MD. Subscribe