Unai Emery arrived at Arsenal on his 555th as coach and was told his contract was to be terminated. I suspect he knew what was coming judging by his body language last night. His staff will also leave the club with him.
The hire was a disaster from start to finish. Raul put the Spaniard’s name on the table when Ivan Gazidis wobbled on Arteta during the search and select process. In a fit of panic no one ran his credentials through a quick Google search. No one picked up the phone to people that had worked with him in the past. No one consulted the data people. The deal was rammed through at such a pace, not one person seemed to raise a red flag about his terrible English. Interview to hire in 8 days.
We paid the price. Almost all of the problems faced by Emery seemed to revolve around his lack of ability to communicate both verbal and non-verbally.
He couldn’t command a room. The man had zero presence. No X factor. People laughed when I raised that, but let’s be honest, if you don’t have an impressive stage presence, you are going to struggle to maintain the attention of 21-year-old boys in a football environment. Players ripped him behind his back, to his face, even Sky presenters weighed in on the action. Disrespect happens to people that don’t have the magic. Wenger had the magic, Mourinho has it, so does Poch… Emery is right there with Glen Roeder when it comes to persona and it dripped through every single press conference. In fact, I hear that press conferences were barely attended towards the end, that says something, doesn’t it?
He couldn’t connect his vision to output on the pitch. In fact, it was questionable if there was a vision there to start with. If Emery was good at anything though, it was talking up a game he couldn’t deliver on. He told the fans he wanted to be the protagonist, when in fact he was a conservative pragmatist. He said he’d fix the defence, he broke it further. He promised us exciting football, he emptied stadiums.
I wrote very early on that Unai Emery represented our version of David Moyes. We’re now heading into the difficult second hire. Inexperienced execs will clamour for experience over substance, just like they did at Manchester United when they moved in on an LVG that was well past his prime.
This is not the time for regressing into bad ideas. We hired ‘experience’ last time and look where it landed us. We have to be looking to where the future of football is going. If we’re in the power and pace era right now, we have to peer around the corner to where the trends are going and find a coach who can take us there. Intense possession-based football is likely going to make a comeback and with young coaches like Thiaggo Motta making claims about 2-7-2 formations and controlling the game through the midfield, the evidence is mounting. Huge focus will be given to off the ball movement as well. A new type of coaching where the spaces you occupy are the tackles of yesteryear. We are not big enough to make a ‘tried and true’ coach work for us, so we need to go where the new thinking is.
‘This is all so hipster’ is something I hear a lot, but listen, looking to the future might feel like an oat milk latte served in a ‘goat support’ cafe in Primrose Hill, but it’s not, it’s absolute basics if you want to succeed. Pep was lambasted because of his ideas when he came to England. The English press were literally slamming the guy because he likes to experiment and push the game forward. Don’t be that person. If you need any evidence as to why, simply look a what just happened to Arsenal after we hired a mainstream Starbucks filter coffee.
Arsenal need to be bold, we need to look at what clubs like RB Leipzig, Gladbach, Rangers and Chelsea are doing. Go young, find someone that can galvanise the fans with future football, let’s not do the top 4 equivalent of calling Sam Allardyce to move us forward marginally over 15 months. Bring in a coach you can build around, don’t let Carlo bring in 18 of his mates with a spice of football that was bland 5 years ago.
What is desperate for us all regardless of the type of coach we desire is knowing that Raul is playing a key role in this decision.
That man is not good for Arsenal football club, he should be kept in check by a CEO that has oversight on him. The Spaniard and Vinnai have been the worst combo since Houllier and Evans. Our organizational structure is meek and so is the performance of it. The lack of strong leadership will continue to kill us, and in times like now, we really could do with a CEO that has a clue.
Raul will be stacking the deck in favour of people he knows. He was happy to jam through his preferred candidate last time, knowing full well he didn’t have the basics for the job. The fact he’s pushing Nuno tells you immediately where he wants to take us… to a super agent paradise.
Most fans don’t want that sort of future. It might seem glitzy, but when you boil it down, you simply open yourself up to be a fee cow for someone that wants to trade players around their personal network. Those systems are opaque, they lack accountability, they move the club away from being a meritocracy, they almost always end in tears. No super-agent cares about your club, they only care about their fees.
That’s why the power vacuum at Arsenal is so incredibly dangerous because really, a proper CEO would be laser-focused on Raul after this debacle and the mess of the summer.
They’d be asking questions like:
- Why did Sven leave?
- Why is there still no chief scout?
- How did you come to the decisions on transfers last summer?
- Why did you spend so much money on a 32-year-old centre back?
- Can you replay the thinking behind hiring Unai Emery?
- Knowing the history of Nuno and Mendes, can you explain why you think this is a good idea?
- Can you show me how much money we have spent on agents fees over the past two years?
There’s no one guarding the chicken coup, and that would be fine if you had someone competent running the show, but it’s increasingly looking like Raul is the fox and he’s coming to town with his mates until he spies another chicken coup.
Josh Kroenke, the man who told us to get excited, let the club pull next years transfer budget forward, and seemingly blow it on a mess of players. I cannot deny that I wasn’t excited by the moves, but I’m just fan looking at a tasty cracker in the desert after not eating for 10 years. Our first summer of ‘contacts’ recruitment has been a disaster outside of Martinelli. The hiring approach run by Raul was horrendous. This season so far has been handled in appalling fashion, from Ozil, to Xhaka, to the horrendous press releases.
Now we’re out here hoping phase two of the project won’t be just as opaque and awful? The very fact the club is only just now building a shortlist tells you all you need to know about our leadership. We should have had a name ready to go just like Spurs did. That there’s now going to be a fight to the death for the next name is exactly the sort of incompetence I fear driving a terrible decision. Emery’s form this season was not a surprise, we should have known it was going to end by Christmas because many of us were predicting that last season.
We need a complete reset. The club has to move away from ‘contacts’ back to the footing Sven sold to us. There has to be aggressive moves from Edu to control the direction of the technical side. He needs to tell us what the future plan is. Then he needs to deliver something the fans can get behind that doesn’t have the paw prints of Raul on it.
Manchester United are the most powerful footballing entity on the planet, they can afford to continue making horrible decisions with their manager. Arsenal cannot afford another mismanaged hire. We are on a precipice, if we make another bad decision, it could be curtains for us for the next ten years… and you know who won’t be around for the clean-up? Raul.
Be careful what you clamour for… this is a definitive moment for Arsenal, pray the club doesn’t fuck it up.
Good luck to Freddie Ljungberg.