Mikel Arteta vs Unai Emery

Arsenal fans would strongly argue that the quality of football under Mikel Arteta is significantly better than that of Unai Emery.

Some would even argue there was a clearer style of play in Arteta’s first game vs Bournemouth than in Emery’s entire reign at Arsenal. However, how much improvement have Arsenal actually made under their new manager?

The stats

While, in my opinion, Arteta’s Arsenal have passed the eye-test, at least much more-so than Emery’s team, how do the two teams compare statistically?

I have compared the first ten league games of Arteta’s reign to the last ten of Emery’s to see if Arsenal are actually performing better under their new manager, or if Arteta is getting lucky compared to his Spanish predecessor?

I think most would agree with me the first thing the new manager had to improve at Arsenal was the defence. Arsenal are notorious amongst football fans for being one of the weakest teams in the league at the back with their attack often bailing them out.

ArtetaAbove is a table that shows the xGA and goals conceded in Unai Emery’s last ten Premier League games and Mikel Arteta’a first ten. xGA is a stat which shows how many goals a team is expected to concede given the quality of chances they allow their opposition to have.

I don’t think it will come as a huge surprise that Mikel Arteta has made significant improvement in reducing the number of goals Arsenal have conceded, with the Gunners letting in 0.5 goals less per game than under Unai Emery. 

However, that stat doesn’t tell the whole story, because while Arteta has reduced Arsenal’s xGA, while playing a harder set of fixtures, Arsenal were expected to concede more goals than they have, suggesting goalkeeper Bernd Leno is to thank. Statistically speaking, Arteta is lucky that his team haven’t conceded more goals.


These are stats demonstrating the number of shots for and against the two Spaniard’s Arsenal teams. They are not pretty reading. Once again, we see that Arsenal’s new Spanish manager has done well improving Arsenal defensively, reducing the number of shots Bernd Leno has to deal with. After just ten league games, this is a solid improvement.

On the other hand, Arteta is understandably yet to strike a balance between attack and defence, with him also reducing the number of shots Arsenal have had per league game since he joined. While it is great that Arteta is improving the defence, he will certainly be looking to move the red bar above the blue. Whether that is done through lowering the blue more or raising the red, it’s something that must be done if Arsenal want to challenge for silverware any time soon.

ArtetaIn comparison to the previous stat, with Arsenal having less shots now than under Emery, remarkably, they are scoring more goals. Whether Arteta has helped the players improve their finishing or not, Arsenal are scoring much more than the stats suggest they should be.

If the blue is much higher than the red, as it is with Arteta, that means that Arsenal are scoring from difficult chances that they would not normally be expected to take. However, if the red is higher than the blue, as it is with Emery, then the manager can feel hard-done that his players are not finishing the chances they should be. Although there is only a 0.06 difference between Emery’s two figures so the players finished as expected under him.

The results

In Unai Emery’s last ten Premier League games, it’s safe to say that Arsenal didn’t win many, however they didn’t lose many either. With only 2 wins and 2 losses in his final ten league games, Emery had managed to draw over half of his remaining fixtures. A worrying record for a team that was pushing for a top 4 finish, but how has Arteta fared in this regard?

The Spaniard has certainly improved on Emery’s record, and given he was introduced right in the middle of the Christmas period with little time to properly train his new squad, he’s done pretty well. 

Arteta has won double the number of league games Emery did, losing only once at home to Chelsea. However, the problem with drawing still remains for the Gunners, as Arteta has drawn five of his ten league games.

The draws were a mixed bag for Arsenal, with Arteta’s side feeling they could’ve come away with wins in the away trips to Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. However, they could also consider themselves lucky they got a draw in the trips to Burnley and Chelsea. 

The final point of comparison is the away record between the two managers, something that has been a major talking point amongst Arsenal fans. Over the past season or so, Arsenal’s home performances have been good, however, away from home, they have crumbled. In 2020, Emery managed just 2 away league wins, coming against 10-men Watford and Newcastle on the opening day of the 2019/20 season.

Arteta on the other hand, has not won a single away league game in four, however, he also hasn’t lost one, drawing all four. The Spaniard did enjoy success in three away cup wins against Bournemouth, Olympiakos and Portsmouth, although he will for sure be wanting improvement in this area.

Overall, to say Mikel Arteta has a large task on his hands is an understatement. However, the improvement that has been seen in such a short space of time is a big credit to him and his staff. In my opinion, Arteta has shown a style of football that he wants to work towards. A team that holds onto possession and presses intensely when they lose it, similar to how a certain Pep Guardiola sets up his team.

It seems there are some small details that Arteta might’ve grabbed from Guardiola during his time at City, such as his use of inverted fullbacks playing as midfielders when the ball isn’t on their side. From the early signs of the new Arteta era, Arsenal fans can feel that they are in safe hands under the new management.

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