Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery has opened up on his hellish 18 months in charge the Gunners, highlighting Mesut Ozil and Nicolas Pepe among his biggest issues.
Emery’s difficult tenure in north London was brought to an end last November after Arsenal suffered their worst winless run since 1992.
Ozil and Emery had a turbulent relationship at Arsenal
Looking back, in a tell-all interview with The Guardian, the Spaniard highlights various problems out of his control which affected the club’s form, such as the departure of Aaron Ramsey and a lack of personal support from the Gunners hierarchy.
But his most scathing criticism is reserved for Ozil, the German playmaker who fell out of favour under Emery’s management.
“I spoke a lot with Ozil,” Emery said. “He has to be selfcritical too, analyse his attitude and commitment.
“I tried with all my might to help Ozil. Throughout my career, talented players have reached their best level with me. I was always positive, wanting him to play, be involved.
Sam Allardyce reveals how close he came to signing Robert Lewandowski for Blackburn
“In pre-season I told him I wanted to help recover the best Ozil. I wanted a high level of participation and commitment in the dressing room. I respected him and thought he could help.
“He could have been a captain but the dressing room didn’t want him to be. That’s not what I decided; that’s what the players decided. Captains are ones who have to keep defending the club, the coach, team-mates.”
Emery also revealed the club went against his wishes to sign Wilfried Zaha in order to get the relatively raw and unproven talent of Pepe for £72m last summer.
Nicolas Pepe is yet to show his best at Arsenal
Pepe, Arsenal’s record signing, struggled to hit the ground running, and his lack of form undoubtedly contributed to Emery’s sacking.
“I told them: ‘This is the player I know and want.’ I met Zaha and he wanted to come,” Emery added.
“The club decided Pepe was one for the future. I said: ‘Yes, but we need to win now and this lad wins games.’ He beat us on his own.
“It’s also true he was expensive and Palace didn’t want to sell. There were a series of decisions that had repercussions.”