Unai Emery met the press yesterday and if he appeared frazzled, everyone knew it was because he and Ivan had caught “the red-eye” back from a meeting with Enos and Junior. We know because Ivan told us so, and Ivan was in charge.
The criticism of recent weeks clearly irked Gazidis. No-one, he emphasised during a run of dates and no names, turned the job down. And no-one leaked anything to the press; the ITK became YKFA.
His spiel came at an opportune moment. Emery is his appointment, he made clear after telling us he’d been watching the Spaniard’s career since he coached Valencia, and everyone bought into it. And the answer to the crossword clue was “ego”. That genuinely did happen; the universe spoke. And Ivan told it to STFU.
The king ascended to his throne in a very public coronation.
Gazidis bided his time and rammed home his advantage over the now-departed Arsène Wenger. Emphasizing the situation, a bizarre moment occurred. The video montage omitted the last boss; “Arsène who?” indeed.
And then came the main event. Arsenal manager Unai Emery spoke to the press. He came complete with Dan, Dan, the translator man, via an earpiece to ensure he understood the questions.
That he did was evident in his replies. Accustomed to seeing new – and not so new – managers using translators for media work, it was refreshing that Emery was willing to put himself ‘out there’ and not afraid to be mocked. He was for a similarly halted first press conference with PSG, but Emery didn’t care.
His vision is clear: good football and success, underpinned by hard work. Some of the squad may not recover from the shock of the final two words of that sentence. Emery, at the very least, talks a good game.
Taking it to 11
Over the next six to eight weeks before the pre-season training begins, his English will improve; the meticulousness of his preparation for the interview underlines that. The players won’t hold any surprise for him if his ‘dossier’ on the was as good as Ivan made out.
The remainder of this week sees him setting out his staffing and playing requirements. Then he sets about the business of preparing for next season. There will be a lot of hard work ahead for everyone. No more laissez-faire – or as the Arsenal interpreted it, lazy fare – this is going to be an energetic side from day one:
“I like to win the ball back as quickly as possible. It’s about two things: possession and pressing.”
Music to Sven’s ears; his air guitar is ready and the conductor’s baton somersaulting toward the bin.
Emery isn’t aiming low and the players now know they must pull their weight:
“Football is a demanding and difficult sport. What we want to do is not fear any team, either here in the Premier League or in Europe, and our objective is to be among the best and to beat the best. I’m the type of coach who has always worked really hard – not because I do it better than anyone else but because that is what I believe the most important thing is.”
Underlining that he added:
“I’ve never seen anything handed out for free in football.”
Turning it up to 11; one louder.
For the rest of this week, he’s apparently meeting with everyone and anyone to discuss staffing; presumably, we’ll know in the next day or two whether Bould and Lehmann are staying. I’d say there’s less doubt about the latter than the former but that’s just my interpretation of events.
Hard Work = Reward
The interesting part of the pre-pre-season is whether he talks to the players before they return to Colney. While mention of Özil yesterday was PR-spiel, the real conversation between the pair may not happen for some time, although I am sure he will phone each of them. We’ll see in the coming months whether Mesut really is sickly or if he was just sick and tired of last season.
Emery has a lot of work to do to get us back to a point of challenging for the title. Before that, he’s got to get us challenging for the top four and if that happens next season, I’ll be impressed. Football without money is not a game of instant results.
A new way of thinking is about to engulf the squad and new methods take some time to get used to. Emery won’t have some of the players back until early August, just after the bulk of the squad returns from the Far East. During that time, the positional and general tactical discipline will begin to bed in. Marrying the best aspects of Arsène’s philosophy – the emphasis on technique, etc. – to his own, will take time.
As will restoring confidence. The away form was down in part to a lack of that and as the season wore on, the weight on their shoulders became heavier. A new start, where the past is firmly put behind them, awaits.
Whatever else, exciting times lay ahead.