Arsenal manager Unai Emery gives a thumbs up on the touchline after his side's second goal, Emirates Stadium, London, 02 May 2019

The Premier League table during Unai Emery’s reign at Arsenal

Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery returned to the Premier League earlier this season with a point to prove. And he’s made a decent start to life as Aston Villa manager. But how does his stint at the Emirates look with the value of hindsight?

Emery was given the daunting task of stepping into Arsene Wenger’s shoes in the summer of 2018. The Spanish coach had delivered back-to-back Ligue 1 titles during his time in charge of PSG and had established a reputation as a great tactician, having led Sevilla to three successive Europa League triumphs.

Under Wenger, the Gunners had enjoyed over two decades of uninterrupted Champions League football. But things declined at the end of the veteran Frenchman’s reign, having been leapfrogged by Jurgen Klopp’s nascent Liverpool in the Premier League’s top four. Arsenal finished an underwhelming sixth when he waved goodbye at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

Wenger’s successor had a remit of getting Arsenal back into the Champions League. It was a difficult start, with defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea in his first two games. But things swiftly picked up from there, with a memorable seven-game winning run in the Premier League.

Emery’s Gunners came agonisingly close to getting back into the Champions League. They lost the Europa League final to Chelsea and finished just one point behind north London rivals Tottenham in the battle for fourth, having endured a late-season collapse.

“The first season we did a lot well,” Emery told The Guardian in 2020, reminiscing on his time at the Emirates.

“I thought: ‘This is my team.’ People said: ‘Unai, we can see your personality in this side.’ There was spirit, games with intensity, energy – Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea – and we reached Arsenal’s first [European] final in 13 years, playing very well against Napoli and Valencia. Finishing third was in reach but we lost four decisive points against Crystal Palace and Brighton.”

They never quite recovered from there. Pressure grew after poor results in the first half of the 2019-20 campaign, and Emery was sacked in the November after a seven-game winless run left Arsenal eight points adrift of the top four.

“At every club, I’ve been protected: Lorca, Almería, Valencia, PSG. At Sevilla I had Monchi,” Emery recalled.

“At PSG Nasser al-Khelaifi protected me in the dressing room and publicly. At Arsenal they weren’t able to, maybe because they came from Wenger, who did everything. They’d say: ‘We’re with you’ but in front of fans and the dressing room they couldn’t protect me. Truth is, I felt alone. And the results dictated I had to go.

“But, look, I was happy at Arsenal and I remember the good things.”

So how do things look as a whole? Actually not too bad. Over the course of Emery’s entire reign, only Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea picked up more points than Arsenal, while Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham bettered them only on goal difference.

Here’s how the full Premier League table looks across his time in charge of Arsenal. Note: every team has played 51 games in this table, and we’ve only included the 17 teams that were in the English top flight throughout Emery’s reign between the summer of 2018 and November 2019.

1. Liverpool – 134pts
2. Man City – 126pts
3. Chelsea – 98pts
4. Tottenham – 88pts (GD: +30)
5. Arsenal – 88pts (GD: +21)
6. Manchester United – 83pts
7. Leicester City – 81pts
8. Wolves – 76pts
9. Everton – 68pts
10. West Ham – 65pts
11. Crystal Palace – 64pts
12. Bournemouth – 61pts
13. Newcastle United – 60pts
14. Burnley- 58pts (GD: −21)
15. Watford- 58pts (GD: −25)
16. Brighton & Hove Albion – 51pts
17. Southampton -48pts

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