Emery’s Emirates will be in for a treat after new Arsenal coach shows charisma, energy and ideas away from the cameras
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Unai Emery looked immaculate in his fitted Arsenal suit bearing an embroidered club badge with red thread. He wore an expensive but not ostentatious watch and his jet black hair was slicked back. The only hint of a rushed few days on the red-eye to the US was the fact his cufflinks on a stylish cream shirt were white pins rather than more classic silver a man of his stature might sport – a nod to the fact he perhaps hadn’t had time to shop for himself recently.
His press conference downstairs next to the media room deep in the Emirates had ended and he was now speaking upstairs, appropriately enough at boardroom level.
For what shone through was his passion and attention to detail which so enamoured the board, and the three wise men leading the hunt for the man to replace the long-serving Arsene Wenger.
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis sat next to the 46-year-old Basque who had so impressed him at the interview process.
Gazidis may have fronted the search, but his opinion was supplemented by the club’s head of football relations, Raul Sanllehi, and head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, who all agreed the former Sevilla boss was the correct applicant for the role.
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The fact Emery’s title was now ‘head coach’ rather than manager suggested Gazidis had won the power struggle developing inside the club towards the turbulent end of Wenger’s reign.
For Gazidis had effectively staged a very red and white coup in N5, by removing the structure built upon the premise that one man, Wenger, could do everything.
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The new appointment won’t have to multi-task so much away from the sphere of his remit – which is to regain Champions League football.
Although Emery deserved credit for speaking English at the public unveiling, his halting style needs to be worked on if his and Gazidis’ ambitions are to align.
Not because of a Brexit-style tub thumping demand that he should speak the language of the country he will now live and work in – but so he can expertly transmit the nuances, demands and detail he so passionately possesses.
It was when he spoke through an interpreter that he became his true self, sat away from the cameras in the directors’ box lounge – which was, to put it bluntly, the person that emerged from a long-list of eight, to romp home, beating the clear favourite Mikel Arteta, with a powerful run down the home straight.
With an expert translator alongside him in the plush but understated setting, Emery became articulate and alive, animated and charismatic, showing the reason kingmaker Gazidis was so enthralled by him, as he shed light on his football ethos and philosophy.
“I like to win the ball back as quickly as possible,” he said. “It’s about two things: possession and pressing.
“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.”
He stressed the line ‘desire to be better’ as a mantra, insisting: ‘I’ve never seen anything handed out for free in football.’
From the man who worked so hard to lift three consecutive Europa League trophies at unfancied Sevilla, he was correct – dedication and true commitment are the sine quo non he demands of all his teams.
Judging by his impressive performance around the Emirates on Wednesday, some of the Arsenal squad, so indulged by Wenger when underachieving, given their undeniable talents, a day of reckoning is approaching, where he will sweep away comfort zones and complacency.
As Emery added: “I think the most important thing is to connect with people and have those personal relationships. Heart to heart, head to head.
“The heart transmits emotion, the head transmits the intelligence.
“So it’s really important to have that connection both on a personal and collective level.
“What you are looking for is a shared experience. It’s true that you get the famous egos in football but that is true of top players and players who are not so good.
“I’m a coach that has come from second division, gone through to the first division, coached at PSG and now at Arsenal.
“And really the essence of it all is people.”
If his teams are as enthralling as his energetic ethos those attending Emery’s Emirates will be in for a treat from this impressive new man.
The new cufflinks can wait – for this is a coach who is already starting to reshape Arsenal in his own charismatic style as the North London giants are propelled into a new era by the new head coach’s energy.