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How Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal reign so far compares to Unai Emery’s spell amid top four slip-up

A look at Mikel Arteta’s time at Arsenal so far and how it compares to predecessor Unai Emery’s spell at the Emirates Stadium.

Mikel Arteta is now coming to the end of his second full season in charge of Arsenal, and it has not been an easy ride for the Spaniard.

Arteta was plunged into the deep end after he was appointed interim boss mid-way through the 2019/20 campaign, and has had to learn quickly, having only previously coached as an assistant.

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But Arsenal’s trust in his project has remained solid, so much so that he was handed a new contract earlier this month, keeping him in place until the summer of 2025.

That new contract came before the Gunners board knew the club’s top four fate, and since then, things haven’t exactly gone to plan.

And Arsenal’s dip in form over recent weeks has left them more likely than not to miss out on the top four.

Defeats to Tottenham and then Newcastle United have left north London rivals Spurs only needing to beat relegated Norwich City on the final day to land fourth spot.

Not only has the top four bid taken a hit, but Arteta’s record has also suffered, leaving him very close to his predacessor, Unai Emery.

Here’s who the two compare:

Emery’s reign

Emery made a good impression early in his Arsenal career, taking the Gunners to within a whisker of a top four finish and Champions League qualification.

The now Villarreal boss - who has gone on to achieve another Europa League title and a Champions League semi-final since taking the job - took Arsenal to within a point of fourth place, finishing behind Tottenham.

Mr Europa League couldn’t quite get Arsenal over the line

He also got them to the Europa League final, where they narrowly missed out to Chelsea.

The following season, he was sacked in late November, leaving Arsenal eight points off the top four.

Arteta’s reign so far

Arteta took over on an interim basis after Emery’s departure, with Freddie Ljungberg deputising briefly in between.

During his first six months in charge, Arteta managed to win the FA Cup and qualify for the Europa League, but he could not manage success elsewhere,

Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League at the Round of 32, losing to Olympiacos and finished in eighth, where Emery left them, but 11 points off fourth place.

The FA Cup played a big role in Arteta getting the job full-time, but he didn’t have cup glory to save his job during his first full season in charge.

Arsenal disappointed last season, finishing eighth again and failing to qualify for Europe for the first time in 25 years, finishing six points off the top four.

Arteta did lead the Gunners to the Europa League semi-finals, but his side were beaten by Emery’s Villarreal, who went on to win the competition.

On paper, Arteta has Arsenal on a similar path

Despite the lack of silverware and European qualification, Arteta was given the benefit of the doubt, and Arsenal have improved significantly this season, showing plenty of promise.

But after a recent wobble, they now look set to mirror Emery’s first season in charge - at least in terms of finishing place.

Arsenal are currently on course to miss out on the top four by one place and two points - one point more than where Emery’s Arsenal ended up in his first and only full season - and that’s without having any European football responsibilites to juggle.

Though, it is worth noting that Arteta’s style of play has been largely more popular with Arsenal fans, even if it hasn’t been more successful.

The numbers

Emery managed to rack up a win percentage of 55.1% at Arsenal, winning 43 of his 78 games in charge.

That puts him third on the all-time list of Arsenal managers in terms of the best win percentages, when only counting full-time managers who took charge of more than 20 games.

Meanwhile, Arteta’s win percentage is currently at 53.8%, winning 70 of the 130 games he has taken charge of.

Those numbers agree with the achievement comparison in many ways, that Arsenal are not a great deal better off with Arteta than they were with Emery.

But we have to take into account a couple of key caveats, aside from the fact Arteta has clearly had more games in charge.

The first is that Arteta’s long-term vision seems to fit with what Arsenal fans want, and that has always been to have a team that plays with an attractive brand of football.

The other is that Emery was still very early in his reign at the Emirates Stadium, and while most agree that the timing of his exit felt right given his corroding relationship with the fans, who knows what he could have achieved long-term.

The Basque coach has won trophies in the majority of his jobs and went on to scoop a Europa League within a year of taking over at Villarreal.

In any case, with Arteta tied down long-term, we should get an opportunity to see whether the former midfielder can manage what Emery could not at the Emirates Stadium over years to come.