Congratulations to Mikel Arteta on being appointed the new Arsenal manager following Arsene Wenger’s departure. He is a rookie in the management world but, after a Premier League winning season as one of Pep Guardiola’s right-hand men, he’ll be sure to have the confidence and tutelage to guide the club into its next phase of life.
Wait, what? Unai Emery? The guy who blew a 4-0 lead against Barcelona, practically let Neymar walk all over him and finished runner up in Ligue 1 with the budget the size of a country? That guy? Surely he can’t be the one to lead the mighty Arsenal out of their merry-go-round of disappointment?
With a reported budget of £50m for next season, this will be a complete culture shock for the Spanish manager in his first year of English football – it’s going to be an absolute shambles.
Well, not quite.
In this massive transition phase for Arsenal Football Club they have had to look out for someone who could steady the ship; calm everything down for a few years to build the foundations for an Arsenal side that will be vying for the Premier League again by 2021. Quite cynically you could also say that the hierarchy were looking for someone easily expendable and, despite being a triple Europa League winner, Emery is largely unknown to the average English fan who doesn’t catch up on their Ligue 1 Résumé de la Journée every Sunday night.
Essentially if he doesn’t hit the ground running or carry the side back into the limelight, and just does the job required, then he could quite seamlessly be given a pat on the back and sent on his way in two years’ time without too much uproar.
If that’s the case, then so be it and good luck to him on whatever he decides next, but Emery may have the qualities to be a godsend for Arsenal and do much more than just steady the club.
Emery definitely offers a different style of football compared to the other men who were up for the job. Rodgers, Enrique and Arteta all presumably would have continued Wenger’s mentality of winning in a style which also entertains the viewer, but Emery will seek to do this in a different way, mainly by not being afraid to include the attacking players in the team’s defensive phases.
People like Özil have played for years with the criticism that they only ever really contribute to one phase of play and many fans feel it is like defending with ten men sometimes. But with Emery, this will not be the case as he favours winning the ball high up the park with an aggressive team press and the false-nine striker plays a pivotal part in this, dropping deep to mark and close down defenders on the ball.Embed from Getty Images
Edinson Cavani was usually tasked with this job at PSG and actually did it very well without much complaint, but presumably this role would now be taken up by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; a completely different type of player. What the Gabonese lacks in grit and doggedness he makes up for in pace and clinical finishing.
If he was shifted over to one of the wingers in a 4-3-3 formation and someone was brought in to play that aggressive false nine part in an attacking line supported by Aubameyang and Lacazette, it could be quite the Liverpool-esque front line for defenders to deal with. This would mean, though, that Arsenal would have to add on to the £110m they’ve spent on strikers in the last two years and this immediately rings alarm bells for TV pundits up and down the country.
However, Emery has had a history of being smart in the transfer market and with him working alongside the ex-Dortmund chief scout Sven Mislintat, there could be other gems the pair could unearth. Ousmane Dembele, Robert Lewandowski, Shinji Kagawa, Diego Alves and Adil Rami are all players signed by the two on the cheap who have gone on to have fantastic careers, collect the best medals and the highest sell on fees. With a miniscule budget of £50m being reported for Emery’s first season in charge, he might be forced into using his know-how to get past this obstacle.
At PSG, the transfers were largely handled by the hierarchy and not the manager and this was a complete contrast to what Emery had dealt with his whole career, a big signifier of this was him not even being present at Neymar’s signing press conference. At Sevilla and Valencia he was tasked with bringing in the best talent for the smallest fees and did this with a fantastic success rate.Embed from Getty Images
He will be taking motivation from his predecessor’s early days at the club when Wenger converted Vieira from a Milan reject into one of the greatest ‘box to box’ midfielders of all time and Bergkamp from having the Donkey of the Week award named after him to the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
Arsene Wenger once simply said, “We are in a job where you have to win.” His mentality to have his players play the best football for the best club in the world ultimately lead him to have one of the most glittering football careers at Arsenal and Unai Emery won’t be afraid to hammer home his methods to make sure his team wins.
Ex-Valencia winger Joaquín said about his former manager: “Emery put on so many videos I ran out of popcorn… He’s obsessed by football, it’s practically an illness. He’s one of the best managers I’ve had.”
There’s little point in trying not to compare Wenger to Emery as the similarities are plentiful. Wenger was known to vomit after football matches as the stress would get too much for him and this obsession is matched by Emery. A revolutionary figure in football analysis was Wenger, spending an age reviewing match tapes in order to improve his team and the new Arsenal manager takes this to a new level. He always prepares the videos himself and regularly “might spend 12 hours just on the video.”
The players will have to get used to this new over-preparedness technique that might have waned in the latter years of Wenger’s reign. His approach will bring the proverbial ‘kick up the rear end’ for many players who have stagnated in recent years. Bellerin, Welbeck and Iwobi amongst others will surely benefit from this new appointment and it should inject a fantastic lease of life into their careers.
Unai Emery is stepping up to claim the most toxic poisoned chalice since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, but he knows it. “In my career I grow up with a new challenge. For me, a challenge is a dream come true.” His pressing style of football, skill with a tight budget and honest ambition will mean Arsenal will continue to be a driving force in English football for years to come. There will, of course, be a transition period where the whole club has to readjust to a new face in the dugout but the small victories will help inject a new vigour into the team.Embed from Getty Images
Despite the usual manager chat of aiming to the be the best in the world, Emery must aim to bring European football back to the Emirates, whether it be via winning the Europa League or through the league – preferably both.
They won’t win the league. They won’t get close but if they can come out as the best of the London clubs and clinch fourth, then the good times will start to return to the Emirates and the next long-term plan for Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis will be in full swing. Good luck to him, as he’s only got the TV pundits who can’t pronounce his name, the journalists still bitter that Arteta didn’t get the job and a 27 million strong fanbase to win over.
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