After just 18 months in charge, Unai Emery was sacked as Arsenal manager. Although it came as no real surprise, the relaxed pace in which the club have looked to install a successor, has been nothing short of baffling.
Usually when a group of directors decide that it is time to hand out a P45, they do so knowing that a replacement has already been lined up. Although not all clubs move as quickly as Tottenham when they appointed Jose Mourinho, time is still very much of the essence.
This is why the snail’s pace that Arsenal are currently operating at is something which is a huge concern for their fans. It can only be described as a massive own-goal by the Emirates powerbrokers.
The decision to install Freddie Ljungberg followed a recent Premier League trend. It is one where a club legend is given the reigns, acting as a steady hand to guide them through choppy waters.
It’s an idea that, in theory, works on a couple of fronts. Firstly it gives fans a timely shot of nostalgia to the arm. A former hero returning to save the day? All will be well again and if they are a success the board can install a successor at a fraction of the cost.
That plan has worked to a certain degree for Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It is also a route that Everton have gone down although, despite Duncan Ferguson’s obvious passion, Farhad Moshiri is still attempting to tie down Carlo Ancelotti instead.
At the same time, the appointment of a club legend can be construed as the desperate act of a club with nowhere left to turn. With a paucity of elite managers currently available, Freddie Ljungberg has been asked to steady the Arsenal shipwreck.
The former Swedish international took over at the start of December. You could see there was a level of exuberance to him and, when asked in press conferences whether he would like the role permanently, he made the right noises.
However, football remains a results business and the exuberance that Ljungberg possessed has already been sucked out of him. Arsenal’s display against Manchester City left the 42-year-old close to despondent.
On the evidence of Arsenal’s recent results, it would be easy to volley a raft of criticism at Ljungberg. However, you only have to listen to the Swede’s repeated pleas for additional backroom staff, to know that the root cause for failure goes right to the top.
To not have a new manager lined up, can be construed as failure. To not give the caretaker the best possible chance of success, can only be construed as a disaster. It begs the question, why are Arsenal setting themselves up for mediocrity?
You only have to look at the Premier League table to see how bad things have got for the Gunners. Although back to back wins would improve that standing considerably, you wonder if they are even capable of that modest achievement.
Although Arsenal offered a moribund performance against Manchester City, it could actually be a blessing in disguise. The mauling they received at the hands of Pep Guardiola, may finally see the North London outfit turn to his assistant.
Mikel Arteta has been installed as the new bookmakers’ favourite. Another former Arsenal player, he has been overlooked for the position once already. When Unai Emery was selected to take over from Arsene Wenger, Arteta was on the shortlist of candidates. However, his lack of managerial experience was something that went against him.
Fast forward 18 months and Arteta still has no managerial experience but is in the frame again. You get the sense that Arsenal have looked down the list and decided that, realistically, he is the best they can do.
The appointment of the former Everton man is by no means a given. If they cannot prise him away from the Etihad, there will only be further delay in naming a permanent successor.
At that point, do Arsenal just see out of the season with the current incumbent in charge? If that is the case, will he be afforded a pot of gold in the January sales? Quite simply, Arsenal are a club that need to act fast. If they do not, they are in serious danger of being left behind.