LONDON – Unai Emery was fired as Arsenal manager Friday after less than two years in charge and with the club without a win in seven games, its worst run since 1992.
The 48-year-old Spaniard was fired following a 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Thursday’s Europa League match.
His assistant Freddie Ljungberg will take over as interim manager during the search for a permanent replacement.
Arsenal fans had demanded “decisive action” from directors with the club’s present run of five draws and two defeats this season just one match off equaling George Graham’s run of eight without a win in 1992.
Club directors responded by axing the man appointed in May 2018 to revive a club stagnating after two decades under Frenchman Arsene Wenger.
“We announce today that the decision has been taken to part company with our head coach Unai Emery and his coaching team,” read the statement.
“We have asked Freddie Ljungberg to take responsibility for the first team as interim head coach.
“The search for a new head coach is underway and we will make a further announcement when that process is complete.”
Ljungberg will be the first Swedish manager to take charge of a Premier League game since Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose last game in the competition came in May 2008 in charge of Manchester City.
Among those in the mix for the permanent job are former Gunners star Mikel Arteta, Pep Guardiola’s assistant at champions Manchester City, ex-Juventus handler Massimiliano Allegri and Wolverhampton’s Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
Napoli’s coach Carlo Ancelotti is another name that has come under speculation — he won the domestic double in the 2009/10 campaign when in charge of Chelsea — but Santo is the early favorite of bookmakers at 11/10.
However, one thing that may work against Santo, 45, is that his two spells in charge of relatively high-profile clubs Valencia and Porto were not blessed with success.
Arsenal’s league form has fallen away badly with five Premier League matches without a win — it is the only side in the top half of the table with a negative goal difference.
Emery’s cause has not been helped by the stripping of the captaincy from fiery Swiss international Granit Xhaka after he swore at Gunners fans when being substituted against Crystal Palace last month.
And a potential saviour, record signing Pepe, has been a huge disappointment since his £72 million ($93 million) move from France’s Lille in the summer transfer window.
Emery’s position had looked shaky enough when north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur sacked Mauricio Pochettino last week, just months after taking them to the Champions League final.
The former Paris Saint Germain handler’s first season ended in disappointment. Arsenal blew two chances for a return to the Champions League, winning just one of its last five games to finish fifth in the Premier League before losing the Europa League final 4-1 to Chelsea.
“Our most sincere thanks go to Unai and his colleagues who were unrelenting in their efforts to get the club back to competing at the level we all expect and demand,” read the club statement.
“We wish Unai and his team nothing but future success.
“The decision has been taken due to results and performances not being at the level required.”
The board, however, and especially unpopular American owner Stan Kroenke are seen as part of the problem by the supporters.
The influential Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, the official supporters’ club, issued a statement welcoming the departure of Emery but calling for further radical changes.
“Emery’s departure is the easy part,” read their statement.
“The more difficult challenge is to recruit a suitable successor.
“We are far from certain that Arsenal has the right personnel to lead this process.
“If Arsenal are to genuinely move forward from today it requires not only a new head coach appointment but also a rejuvenation of the boardroom.”