Unai Emery is facing a possible touchline ban after being charged with improper conduct by the Football Association for kicking a plastic bottle at a Brighton supporter during Arsenal's 1-1 draw at the Amex Stadium on St Stephen's Day.
Emery reacted with frustration to Arsenal’s final, failed attack of the match and immediately apologised to the fan in question, insisting his fit of pique had been an accident. However, that did not stop the FA from announcing on Thursday morning that they were looking into the incident with the governing body announcing just after 5pm that they had decided to charge the Spaniard.
“Arsenal manager Unai Emery has been charged following the game against Brighton yesterday [December 26th 2018],” read an FA statement. “It is alleged his action of kicking a water bottle during the fixture amounts to improper conduct. He has until 6pm on January 2nd 2019 to respond to the charge.”
Emery hoped his apology to the Brighton fan in question would have meant an end to the matter but that has not proved the case and he could now find himself watching Arsenal from a different, detached vantage point given José Mourinho was hit with a one-game touchline ban by the FA after he kicked a bottle of water during Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with West Ham in November 2016.
“I hope not [to get a touchline ban] but I have to respect the decision because it is a circumstance of my action,” Emery said prior to being charged. “I kicked the bottle in frustration – not for the supporter. I kicked for me and it went near to the supporter.”
Emery's immediate focus is on Saturday's trip to Liverpool, ahead of which the 47-year-old stated his belief that Jürgen Klopp's men could repeat Arsenal's feat of 2004 and go the entire campaign unbeaten.
Liverpool sit top, six points clear of second-place Tottenham, having won their last eight league fixtures. In total, they have triumphed in 16 of their 19 games this season and drawn the other three, fuelling claims that the Merseyside club are not only primed to win the title for the first time since 1990 but also become English football’s latest invincibles, following in the footsteps of the Arsenal team who were crowned champions under Arsène Wenger 14 years ago and contained the likes of Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.
“At the moment they [LIVERPOOL]are doing it and they can do [GO UNBEATEN],” said Emery. “They [HAVE]very big confidence and big performance from their players. They are maybe in their best moment now. For us it is a big challenge and a good test to know who we are. The difference between them and us in the table is clear and also I want to look at the pitch. We have one test against them at the Emirates, we drew but it was a good match. In Liverpool it is going to be a different match to what we played here.”
Emery has been hugely impressed with how Liverpool have developed under Klopp since his Sevilla side beat them in the 2016 Europa League final and, 31 months on, holds them up as inspiration for what Arsenal, who sit fifth, could achieve under his charge.
“Three years ago they were out of the Champions League through the Premier League and through the Europa League. This progress is an example for us,” Emery added. “We need to be very demanding of ourselves to do this step quickly in our way. But we need also time, and sometimes the patience is very important for us.
“After finishing the first half of the season, we are in a good position with 38 points. Not very good but [QUITE]good. We now need to do our process in the second half of the season – to improve and to take a big performance little by little to shorten the difference between them [LIVERPOOL]and us.”