Arsenal have named former PSG and Sevilla manager Unai Emery as successor to Arsene Wenger, who served the club for 22 years.
Life after Wenger must have seemed unfathomable for many Arsenal fans who know only the Frenchman as the one to guide the Gunners from the sidelines.
A new dawn begins, though, and Unai Emery has emerged to succeed a true great. Admittedly, Wenger’s immense career in north London took a wayward turn towards the end of his tenure. Reigniting Emirates Stadium, half-full for the back end of this season, is something Emery hopes to do swiftly.
Frustration and disgruntlement have been the overriding emotions for Arsenal supporters in recent years. Whilst saying goodbye to Wenger was an emotional experience, the breath of fresh air in 46-year-old Emery can be appreciated for now at least. Come the start of the season, however, the brutal results business of football will ultimately decide whether the Spaniard is the right man for the job.
It is, as Arsenal aptly put it on their social media, a ‘new era’. Anticipating what is next for the Gunners won’t be easy, especially with Wenger leaving such a bold mark in the club’s history.
Unai Emery: Arsenal’s future
Winning silverware isn’t alien to Unai Emery, which will come as a relief for trophy-starved Arsenal.
The Spaniard recently led PSG to resounding success in Ligue 1—they clinched the title in mid-April. And a respectable four domestic trophies in the French capital bolsters his résumé ahead of what could prove his toughest challenge yet.
Prior to life in Paris, three Europa League trophies with Sevilla (including victory over Liverpool in the 2015/16 final) points to encouragement on the European stage—essential to the Gunners who head into that competition for the second consecutive season.
Emery’s wealth of experience in trophy-winning could be key for Arsenal. Although he isn’t expected to fully fill the sizeable void left by Arsene Wenger, a return to the Champions League must be a highlighted priority.
Arteta risk too great?
Mikel Arteta, former Arsenal captain and a significant cog in the perfect machinery of Manchester City this season, looked set to become Wenger’s successor. His lack of experience, however, has clearly deterred Ivan Gazidis. The more managerially erudite Unai Emery became favourite for the post earlier in the week, and Gazidis announced his appointment was a ‘unanimous decision’.
Perhaps the wisdom of Arsene Wenger and longevity of his reign meant Arsenal felt more inclined to pick a boss with experience, rather than going from one end of the spectrum to another. In Emery there is a meticulous figure with proven success, a planned approach and a vibrant style of play that suits the Gunners well.
Arteta, too, showcased his tactical talents. He bought into the ravishing strategy of Pep Guardiola in Manchester City’s extraordinary campaign, but it would have been a risky choice to allow the recently retired Spaniard to jump straight into one of the most important jobs in world football.
Smaller transfer budget, huge scrutiny
Emery will come under his sternest examination yet with Arsenal. Joining a huge global brand that thrives on prosperity, life in north London (as Wenger knows all too well) won’t be straightforward. The Gunners are a club requiring rejuvenation compared to PSG whose fortune meant their targets rarely altered year upon year.
The Spaniard will need to adjust to a far smaller amount of resources compared to his former side, and the philosophy of nurturing academy players should remain, to an extent. Wenger adopted that ideology so well, perhaps the reason why Arsenal’s youngsters tend to stay at the Emirates.
Splashing out extortionate funds on the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, enticing players with enormous wages and having the pick of the world’s best won’t be an option for Emery anymore. Instead, like at Sevilla, bringing younger players through the ranks and integrating them with a sprinkling of stars—Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil the brightest of those—is fundamental if the ex-PSG boss is to succeed.
And, of course, as with any job in the Premier League, media speculation and inspection is all part of it. So don’t be too surprised if a couple of defeats see the ‘Emery Out’ banners appear in the Emirates terraces…