The devastating defeat left everyone at Arsenal stunned, shocked and in a state of disbelief. But when the chips are down, followers turn to a leader. And the Gunners fans are no different. So, when Unai Emery’s outfit lost so desperately in the Europa League cup final against Chelsea, it was the Spanish coach who needed to come out and rally the troops in the wake of the awful 4-1 reverse.
And he has done that, to his credit. Following the lacklustre performance and resulting loss in Baku, Azerbaijan, Emery took to social media to try to comfort the wounded Gooners with the best words of comfort he could muster in such miserable times. Writing on his personal account on Twitter, he said:
“Not easy to find the words to describe how we feel today, but here is an important one: Proud… of our team, our club, our fans, of the huge effort of all of us since day 1”.
Emery, the former coach of Valencia and Paris Saint Germain who had won all three of his previous finals in the competition, added:
“Proud to be part of the Arsenal family. Today we start building next season’s Arsenal. Forward together!”
It will take time for the wounds to heal because not only was the result a terrible one to a London rival, it also denied Arsenal the chance to play their football in the Champions League next season. That’s a massive blow on so many ways. The financial advantages of playing among the Euro elite goes without saying but the other aspect to consider is the kudos it brings — and that is vital in attracting top quality players. And given the paucity of the squad Emery has, recruitment this summer will be massive for the club.
Looking to the future, Emery will need to use his transfer budget wisely this summer as it will be half what he would have expected — around £100million — given that the chance to play Champions League football has been missed. What could well be crucial is the future of the club’s highest-paid player Mesut Oil. If Emery can shift him from the wage bill — China looks to be the only realistic destination if the German playmaker wants to stay on that sort of money — then that will free up a large chunk of budget for new recruits.
For the time being Emery, his Arsenal players and Gunners fans must come to terms with a summer of realising they no longer dine at the top table — think more Europa League than Champions League. Then, in July, it starts again. The players will be back for pre-season before jetting off to the United States on tour where they will play games in Denver, Los Angeles, Charlotte and Washington DC.