Monday 27 May 2019

The inside story of how Arsenal chose Unai Emery over Mikel Arteta for the impossible job of succeeding Arsene Wenger

Unai Emery has an impressive CV (Adam Davy/PA)
Unai Emery has an impressive CV (Adam Davy/PA)

Miguel Delaney and Ed Malyon

It will be a morning of questions for Mikel Arteta, but there will at last be some clarity.

The former Arsenal midfielder was given enough encouragement that he was succeeding Arsene Wenger that the make-up of his backroom staff and contract terms were being discussed. But instead of a blank canvas and the promise of a Pep Guardiola-style succession at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal went cold on Arteta and warmed to the idea of Unai Emery.

It would have been difficult for Arteta, learning on the job as a coach who doesn't even lead sessions at Manchester City. If the former Barcelona, PSG, Everton and Arsenal playmaker is anything, he is a blank canvas but Arsenal have opted for something more fully-formed.

After a thorough process, the Emirates hierarchy decided that Emery’s vast experience was key, and the ultimately distinguishing factor between him and the 36-year-old Arteta. While the Manchester City coach greatly impressed in interviews, and sources say he ticked many of the boxes, the fact this would have been the coach’s first managerial job also weighed on the Arsenal decision maker’s minds. Arteta’s camp are understood to have been told only late on Monday that they were going with Emery, with the news also spreading to many Arsenal players.

Emery, 46, departed PSG this summer after the club opted not to renew his contract following a two-year spell, instead appointing Thomas Tuchel as his successor.

Emery has been pushing for the Arsenal job since leaving PSG and met club officials earlier this month to hold preliminary talks about the possibility of taking over at the Emirates.

Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis has been determined to complete as thorough a process as possible in the manager search, even while continuing talks with Arteta, and he has been persuaded by Emery given his pedigree. The club are conscious of the supporters’ reaction to any appointment, and how relevant Arteta’s lack of experience is in that regard. For the Kroenke family, who have enjoyed an incredible turnaround of their NFL franchise, the Los Angeles Rams, by hiring the league's youngest coach, Arteta seemed to mirror that decision. But the realities of open-market European football are very different to the closed, sterile rule of its American cousin and the National Football League. Ultimately, the risks were too great, Emery's CV too strong to ignore.

The older manager’s experience – having been so successful in winning knockout trophies at Sevilla, and then a title at PSG – is known to have been key.

It was also felt that Emery might better suit the parameters of the role defined by the club.

Many around Arsenal felt Arteta was so persuasive in his interviews, he was very close to getting the job, with staff openly talking about it all last week. There were some snags with the formation of his backroom staff, however, and in the meantime key Arsenal figures felt that Emery's record did a lot of persuading on its own. Emery was willing to say yes to the role being offered, and by Monday Arsenal were ready to ask the question.

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