Arsenal put together a deal for Jose Mourinho weeks before sacking Unai Emery

  • Kat Lucas

It was a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’ Arsenal sacked Unai Emery. The answer finally came after a 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. 

Gunners players had stuttered on for weeks, if not months, waiting for the axe to fall on their manager. 

Fan unrest was growing, culminating in what looked like under 30,000 in attendance at the Emirates for the final showdown. 

As much as supporters willed for Emery to do well when he took over from Arsene Wenger, his reign ends with many breathing a sigh of relief – and scratching their heads as to why he wasn’t sacked sooner.

The board have been indecisive on his future and as a result, Arsenal may have paid a heavy price. 

There is no standout candidate, with Wolves’ Nuno, and former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri the leading candidates to take over on a permanent basis. 

How north London might have looked different though, had Emery been relieved of his duties a fortnight ago. 

Sky Sports report that Jose Mourinho was the man wanted by senior figures at the club. 

The Daily Mail add that Head of Football Raul Sanllehi had already lined up a deal. Talks had already begun and they were confident Mourinho would take up the post, but they continued to dither over Emery. 

They now feel “resentful” that he’s in the hot seat just down the road. 

Owner Stan Kroenke was the main figurehead who insisted he be given more time. The board remain divided, Sanllehi, Edu, Sir Chips Keswick and Lord Harris of Peckham all continuing to quarrel.

Arsenal had drafted a deal 

According to the same newspaper, Ljungberg has not been thought of as a permanent option. Mourinho, on the other hand, was. 

The Portuguese was heavily linked with the job a matter of weeks ago, before Tottenham sacked Mauricio Pochettino and appointed the Special One the next morning. 

Would he have taken the Arsenal job if it had come up sooner? The question was put to Mourinho in his pre-match press conference ahead of Tottenham’s league fixture against Bournemouth.

“No point in telling you,” he told reporters.

“I’m so happy here I cannot think of the possibility of another club. If you put any other club in the world in front of me now I’d say no.”

The 56-year-old has enjoyed a winning start to life at Spurs, beating West Ham and Olympiacos. Nobody would have predicted he’d oversee 11 goals in two games, either. 

Regardless of whether he would have been a universally popular appointment at the Emirates, he was the most high-profile, successful manager who was available. 

It seems Daniel Levy was in talks with him before Pochettino’s sacking, judging by the speed in which he and an elaborate backroom staff were handed the reins. Even so, pen was not put to paper until 10 days ago. 

That means even if Arsenal had waited until after the 2-0 loss to Leicester – and let’s face it, they had plenty of opportunities before that, too – they could have had their man. 

As it is, they’ll be watching on, quite possibly ruing their mistake, as he manages their arch-rivals. 

Just think – Mourinho could have been in the opposite dug-out for the next north London derby. 

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