Unai Emery Talks Arsenal Sacking, Mesut Ozil, Future Amid Everton Interest

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Unai Emery manager of Arsenal during the UEFA Europa League group F match between Arsenal FC and Eintracht Frankfurt at Emirates Stadium on November 28, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery has opened up on his departure from the club and his relationship with Mesut Ozil.

The Spaniard was sacked in November having been appointed last year as Arsene Wenger's replacement at the Emirates Stadium.

In an interview with Guillem Balague for BBC Sport, Emery looked back on his time at the club and said he was "very pleased" with their first season before his side lost 4-1 to Chelsea in the UEFA Europa League and missed out on a place in the Premier League's top four.

"In the league, we swam right up to the shore and died on the beach," he said.

The Gunners were third on April 1 after 31 matches. However, they lost four times in their final seven games, including a 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace at home, where they were also held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion.

As a result, they finished fifth, a point behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur and two behind Chelsea in third.

Nevertheless, Emery said: "I was very satisfied with how things went because I believe we learned how to become a team, at times a team that shone, but a team that was effective and competitive, and a team that in general was showing why Arsenal signed me."

The 48-year-old was relieved of his duties on November 29 after the Gunners had been on an almost unprecedented winless run:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

7 - Arsenal have not won any of their last seven matches in all competitions (D5 L2) - they never went on as poor a run across 1235 games under Arsène Wenger, last waiting this long for a win in February 1992 under George Graham (8 games). Denouement. https://t.co/Aqz016ODfn

Emery said he was "suffering" during this period as he struggled to turn things around and told his players "I couldn't see the team I pictured on the field of play, I couldn't identify what I was looking for."

He felt the run of poor performances and results lost him the support of the fans, making his position untenable for the club.

Much was made of Emery's difficulties in speaking English, which he spoke in press conferences and the dressing room without the aid of an interpreter. 

Football writer Simon Curtis believed it contributed to his downfall:

Simon Curtis @bifana_bifana

Emery's problems with English form a parallel with the fate of Big Phil Scolari at Chelsea. Could not communicate effectively enough with his squad, nor with his players and failed. Not the whole story by any means but an important part of it. https://t.co/tbIfI6Wrin

Emery said that while his players did understand the messages he put across, he struggled to deal with the volume of questioning he received from the media when results went against him:

"My speech in the first or the second question of press conferences could contain phrases or words to express myself but the third or the fourth or the fifth I found more difficult.

"As a result, I saw this barrier that I had to conquer, and I believe that in time I would have done it but clearly I still had a long way to go."

The coach's relationship with Ozil was also the subject of much speculation. 

The German, Arsenal's highest-paid player, made just 35 appearances in all competitions last season. This season he had played just seven times before Emery was sacked. Two of those were in the Carabao Cup, and he did not complete 90 minutes in either of those games.

"Ozil is a very important player if you can find a way to make it work with other players," Emery said. "He has talent that allows other players to be better, but when you want a bit more aggressive pressure, he does not have the best qualities for that."

In Arsenal's last match, Ozil was substituted by interim boss Freddie Ljungberg before the hour-mark with the team 3-0 down to Manchester City:

Sky Sports Premier League @SkySportsPL

Not the best of days for Mesut Ozil 😕 Man City still lead 3-0 against Arsenal and look good value for their lead. 📺 Watch the final 30 minutes on Sky Sports Premier League 📱 Follow #ARSMCI here: https://t.co/5I7iw8kHse 📲 Download the @SkySports app! https://t.co/pZLof4gaRs

The Times' Henry Winter was critical of the playmaker's attitude, while Opta's Duncan Alexander put his season into context:

Henry Winter @henrywinter

Somebody at #afc should give Ozil a video of De Bruyne's work in/out of possession, creating and scoring, pressing hungrily. Ozil, by contrast, seemed disinterested/showed dissent when deservedly subbed. Ozil blessed with special technique but his attitude stinks at times #ARSMCI

Duncan Alexander @oilysailor

Between them Thibaut Courtois and Ben Foster have had as many shots on target as Mesut Ozil in league football this season.

Ozil's performance against City was an example of Emery's point, though during his tenure the Gunners rarely played with aggression or put opponents under significant pressure whether Ozil was on the pitch or not.

Former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta was appointed Emery's long-term successor on Friday, and Emery backed his compatriot to succeed.

Per sports journalist Paul Brown, he also discussed his immediate plans amid interest from Everton in filling their managerial vacancy:

Paul Brown @pbsportswriter

Emery on #EFC: “Different teams have expressed interest. To be honest I want to thank them for wanting me and I told them that I wanted to be quiet, that I need to take a little bit of air. And to choose well the next project after many years of not stopping.”

The Gunners' slump was not arrested by the departure of Emery. In Ljungberg's five matches in charge, they picked up just one win, so Arteta has an enormous job on his hands as he becomes a manager for the first time in his coaching career.

As for Emery, his reputation will have taken a hit after his struggles at Arsenal. He won three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla, though, as well as seven honours at Paris Saint-Germain, including the Ligue 1 title.

He may not be a candidate for an elite job in the near future, but as Everton's interest indicated, he'll likely have plenty of offers come his way.