UNAI EMERY believes Arsenal were in decline towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign and ‘had to change things’.
The Gunners will resume Premier League action following the international break with a trip to Bournemouth on Sunday, looking to extend a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
Arsenal, who sit in fifth place after 12 games — eight points behind leaders Manchester City — failed to finish in the top four for the first time under Wenger in his final two campaigns, a situation Emery believes was down to losing the ‘defensive structure’.
In an interview with Spanish publication Marca, the Arsenal head coach said: ‘I met once with him, and little else. I respect him a lot, but no matter how much info he gave me, I had to change things. I told the players: “We started at kilometre zero”.
‘Even now, four months later, I still say it: “We are in the beginning!”.’
Emery feels Arsenal lost sight of a key aspect during Wenger’s closing seasons. ‘Before Wenger arrived, Arsenal celebrated the 1-0 (win) and was based on defensive solidity. Then with Arsene, joy was turned into attack, with players of good standing, and the perfect combination was “The Invincibles” (when Arsenal won the Premier League undefeated in 2003-2004),’ the Spaniard said.
‘But over time, only technical quality and offensive freedom were taken care of, and the team lost the defensive structure. What I want is to unite both essences and be more competitive.
‘The Arsenal was in decline. We had to stop it and start climbing.’