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Emery struggled with big players at Arsenal & Xhaka deserves more respect, says Lichtsteiner

9:18 pm AEDT 3/12/19
Unai Emery Granit Xhaka
A former Gunner has described the experience of working under the Spanish boss at Emirates Stadium, highlighting possible reasons behind his sacking

Unai Emery "struggled with the top players" during his time at Arsenal, according to Stephan Lichtsteiner, who also believes Granit Xhaka deserves more respect.

Emery's one-and-a-half-year reign at Emirates Stadium came to end last Friday , as he was relieved of his managerial duties following a home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League.

The result extended Arsenal's winless run to seven matches across all competitions - their worst run of form in the top flight since 1992 - and compounded a nightmare start to the 2019-20 campaign.

Emery received widespread criticism for his selection policy and insistence on playing out from the back, with a fractious relationship with club talisman Mesut Ozil also attributed to his eventual downfall.

Lichtsteiner, who was Emery's first signing at Arsenal when he succeeded Arsene Wenger in the hot seat during the summer of 2018, thinks the Spaniard found it difficult to get the best out of the club's star names.

“I’d say [he is] a good trainer, a good coach, but maybe he struggled with the top players," Lichtsteiner told iNews .

"With the big players, he hasn’t maybe the relationship to bring more out [of them] and get the top performances.

"Maybe that point I can say [something] negative, but the rest was almost everything positive.”

Reflecting on his own personal experience of working under Emery last season, Lichtsteiner added: "When a manager doesn’t play you for two months it is easy to criticise. That’s not my style.

“Over a long time it was really good, then the last two months [of the season] I didn’t really understand what had happened.

"The training was good, the team that we had last year was an amazing team, so it’s not my thing to speak badly about the coach because it is too easy now to say something against him.”

Lichtsteiner, now of Augsburg in the Bundesliga, also weighed in on fellow Switzerland international Xhaka's recent struggles at the Emirates.

Xhaka was stripped of the captaincy after responding angrily to abuse from supporters when being substituted during a 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace on October 27, and has since found his playing time significantly restricted.

It has been suggested that the midfielder will leave the club in January, but Lichtsteiner still hopes that the midfielder reaches a "solution" with Arsenal.

“I understand both sides, you know? I understand the fans, because there is an ambition and they want to win," he said. "They are not happy, of course, but I understand Granit also because this [reaction] is just human. He deserves more respect, because he gives everything for Arsenal. I see how he works, he is 100 per cent professional. 

“On the other side, the bigger the club is the bigger the pressure. As a football player, you need to manage that pressure because it’s part of the game.

"It’s normal in football, especially when you are at a big club, this pressure, so it’s completely human what has happened with Granit but I hope for him, and for Arsenal, that they are going to find a good solution. It’s important for the team and for him also.”

Arsenal are back in Premier League action at home to Brighton on Thursday, with Freddie Ljungberg handed coaching duties on an interim basis while the club searches for a new permanent boss.