Arsenal Should Have Stuck to Their Gut Feeling and Appointed Mikel Arteta8 min read
It came as a surprise to many when Arsenal announced Unai Emery to be the successor to long-term manager Arsène Wenger. For the weeks since the Frenchman, who led the Gunners to unprecedented success throughout his 22 years, left the club, former club captain Mikel Arteta looked destined to take the reins at the Emirates.
Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, was the power-broker behind the scenes pushing for Arteta, while others inside the boardroom were skeptical of his lack of experience as a head coach. Up until four days ago, Arsenal were angling for Arteta and the operation was so far advanced that he was deciding on his backroom staff and informing the club about which personnel he wanted alongside him.
Unfortunately for the 36-year-old, who is understandably devastated, Arsenal went cold on the trail for their former captain and turned to former Paris Saint-Germain, Sevilla and Valencia manager Emery.
Arsenal’s recruitment process seems unclear
Since the announcement that Wenger made to the press about walking away, it appeared there was a clear strategy in recruiting a new manager: either go for a true elite coach, such as Max Allegri or Diego Simeone, or vouch for Arteta, a blank canvas who could control the portrayal of football on the pitch. Yet, somehow, they failed to follow through on either.
While Gazidis had received encouragement from Allegri, there was nothing to suggest Simeone was about to leave his beloved post at Atlético Madrid to make the trip to North London.
Arsenal had pushed for the Italian coach, but transfer funds became a sticking point for Allegri, who was underwhelmed with the reported £50 million kitty before sales. Even when learning this, Arteta was unfazed and wanted to press on.
Luis Enrique was ruled out, Allegri and Simeone took themselves out of the race, and so Arsenal were left with Arteta and the small murmurs of Emery following his sacking at the Parisian giants.
In the end, the former Sevilla manager was given the nod, primarily on his experience of having been around Europe. His English is not fluent, which could become a problem, as it was in France with PSG after making a hash of it in a press conference, but Arsenal believe they have someone who can pick up the pieces from Wenger and drive the team forward.
Emery not in the ‘elite coach’ bracket
In truth, however, at 46-years-old, Emery is not in the bracket of the ‘true elite’. The Spanish coach is most probably in the one below that, but some have made the case he is still somewhat from that level.
Emery’s major successes to date have been keeping Valencia in the top three teams in Spain, while chaos emerged behind the scenes, and guiding Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League• trophies – a tournament that Arsenal will be participating in again next season.
Though, when peeling away the surface level of Sevilla’s success in Europe, it was not just down to Emery’s tactical ingenuity that crowned them Europa League winners. In fact, it was mostly down to Monchi, the then Sevilla sporting director, and his team of impressive scouts in identifying the best talent around the world at affordable prices. Sevilla had a team befitting of the Champions League thanks to Monchi, but plied their trade in Europe’s second-tier competition due to failings in La Liga.
Our new head coach. Together, let’s make this era a special one #WelcomeUnai pic.twitter.com/6eiE6qwYkI
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 23, 2018
That is not to say that Emery did not warrant the acclaim – he managed an ever-changing Sevilla side and kept the consistency throughout the years in Europe, but it is difficult to base opinions on the Spaniard just as a result of their triumph in the Europa League.
And then came PSG. The biggest job Emery has set foot in, managing mega personalities with world-class ability and doing so with rusty french.
Yes, he won seven trophies while in France over two years, but the embarrassment came in three stages: 1) losing the title against AS Monaco convincingly in his first season, 2) becoming known for being the manager to squander a four-goal lead against Barcelona and allowing them to stage ‘ La Remontada’, and 3) even after untold riches spent last summer, including the addition of superstar Neymar for a world record transfer fee, failing to get past the Round of 16 in the Champions League.
Throughout his time in the French capital, there were rumblings of the PSG dressing room getting the upper hand on Emery and the Spanish manager allowing them too much freedom. A lack of focus was beginning to erupt and Emery had lost control of his players.
Emery is not a tactical specialist, especially against 10 men when the opposition have a man sent off, and he’s not an authoritative figure, but he is a coach that will fit into Arsenal’s new, continental system of having a head of recruitment as well as a director of football. His lack of control over transfers is seemingly not a problem, as it wasn’t when he allowed Monchi to guide Sevilla into the light.
Arteta could have exposed the Arsenal board
If Arteta, who carried a great sense of mystique and Arsenal origins, was to have failed at the Gunners, the spotlight would quickly turn to chief executive Gazidis. It would have been a bold call and the blame would fall directly at his feet. However, with Emery, the Arsenal board can hide behind the former PSG boss as much as they like. They are safe, as they always have been.
Arteta was said to have come across as incredibly persuasive and impressive in his meetings with the Arsenal decision makers over the past month, but his lack of experience and trophies swayed them towards a more experienced manager. There is no doubt the former Barcelona player will get a vast amount of offers when he leaves City, but he is going to have to wait a little while longer for his time in the Gunners’ dugout.
Until Arsenal take that bold step and truly trust themselves in their decision making, rather than flip-flopping, it is highly unlikely they will ever challenge the order of the Premier League.
Arsenal are to win the Europa League & finish outside of the Premier League top 4 in 2017/18.
Arsenal are to finish in the Premier League top 4 in 2017/18.