Unai Emery in the firing line

Unai Emery is widely seen as the next Premier League manager to be sacked, with reports emerging that Luis Enrique is in line for his job.
Unai Emery is widely seen as the next Premier League manager to be sacked, with reports emerging that Luis Enrique is in line for his job. PHOTO: REUTERS

Defiant Arsenal boss pleads for calm after Leicester loss as rumour of sacking persists

LONDON • "It's not getting better," tweeted Arsenal legend Ian Wright following the 2-0 Premier League loss to Leicester on Saturday, four words that resonated so well with the club's supporters regarding their manager Unai Emery.

The Spaniard could have done with a better result before the international break, but in his usual defiance, he believes he will still be in charge when Southampton visit the Emirates in a fortnight.

"We have time to recover," he said after the defeat at the King Power Stadium. "I know we are receiving criticism. I can accept it, that is normal if you are not winning matches.

"But my message to everyone at Arsenal would be to stay calm because we can improve. We are very ambitious in our target, but we know we need time and patience."

He is not blind to his team's faults, however, and recognised that, although Arsenal competed well enough when the scores were level, they fell away alarmingly once Leicester took the lead.

"When they scored the first goal maybe that was the moment we lost the possibility to do anything in the game," he admitted.

"Before that, I was pleased with the way we stuck to the game plan.

  • MISFIRING GUNNERS

  • 2

    Clean sheets Arsenal have kept in their last 24 away league games.

  • 87

    Arsenal have won 87 points in their 50 Premier League games under Unai Emery (W25 D12 L13) - one fewer than they managed in their final 50 under Arsene Wenger (W27 D7 L16).

"We need some more passion in our game, we need to restore some confidence, but we were playing a very good side. There is still a long way to go in the season."

Whether that will satisfy Emery's critics is debatable.

A return to the Champions League next season was his target after a summer of heavy investment in reshaping his squad.

But Arsenal (17 points) are already eight points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who travelled to leaders Liverpool for yesterday's late match.

Reports in Spain have also emerged soon after the match that former Barcelona and Spain coach Luis Enrique is in line to take over the Arsenal hot seat.

While the Gunners struggle, Leicester are flying high after Jamie Vardy and James Maddison netted to win all three points.

Brendan Rodgers' men have now won four in a row since their last defeat at Liverpool. With every passing week they look an even better bet for a Champions League placing.

But the manager insisted he was not thinking of anything more despite his team moving up to second spot provisionally.

"I suppose we have thrown a hand grenade right into the middle of the top four. But we're not really thinking about the title race," he said.

"We're thinking about developing a team and improving the players. That is our only focus. But if we can bring European football back here, that would be great."

Arsenal, despite their harsh critics, did not play badly. They even had their chances to take something from the game, but crucially, their league winless run now extends to four.

The Gunners took the field with a flat back-five in an attempt to neutralise Leicester's variety of attacking options, a tacit admission of insecurity that set the tone for the early part of the game.

For all the home side's possession and pressure, however, it was Arsenal who created the best chance to open the scoring, only for Alexandre Lacazette to miss the target from the edge of the six-yard area.

The Leicester breakthrough came midway in the second half, when a subtle flick from Harvey Barnes found Youri Tielemans in front of goal and he moved the ball on to his left to an unmarked Vardy.

Leicester's leading scorer does not miss chances like that, and the former England striker duly stuck the ball beyond Bernd Leno.

Vardy then turned provider for Maddison just seven minutes later.

Once ahead, Leicester played out the remainder of the game with that brisk passing and pressing game they do so well, while Arsenal capitulated in the way they do so often.

It must have made miserable viewing for Emery, especially with the crowd alternating between chants of "Ole" for the Foxes' passing and "You're getting sacked in the morning" for the Gunners manager.

For now though, the 48-year-old is firmly in his seat and preparing for Southampton's visit.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2019, with the headline 'Emery in the firing line'. Print Edition | Subscribe