After a crazy day yesterday where things whipsawed from “It’s Arteta!” to “wait hold on maybe not” to “Unai Emery’s in London”, we got official confirmation today of what was yesterday’s worst kept secret - Unai Emery, late of PSG, is Arsenal’s new manager. I wasn’t sure until today whether he was going to be called “manager” or “coach”, but everything I’ve seen says “manager”, so that’s what I’m going with here. [Update: Arsenal’s official annoucement is calling Emery “head coach,” so there’s that.]
Pointless speculation about what goes on his business card aside, Emery takes the helm at a pretty pivotal time in the recent history of Arsenal; no need to recount it all here, but Arsenal are at their lowest point in 22 years. I don’t think anyone thinks that Emery is the guy to all of a sudden turn Arsenal into the Champions League powerhouse we all want the club to become, but they’ve never really been that anyway; if Emery turns them into a club that gets back into the Champions League and can stay there, that’s a win on a lot of levels.
We had a good discussion yesterday about the process by which Emery was brought in, and while that process may not have gone as flawlessly as we all might have hoped, it resulted in Arsenal bringing in a manager with a proven track record of Europa League success, a proven record of getting a lot out of teams with, for lack of a better way of putting it, upside challenges related to the big boys in a league, and while he wasn’t able to get the massive, uncomplementary pile of expensive egos wearing Paris St Germain shirts to the Champions League final, I’m not sure that in and of itself is a strike against him as Arsenal manager.
Arsenal are at a pretty significant crossroads right now in both operational and roster-construction senses; what they need is a guy who can navigate those challenges while keeping Arsenal pushing forward towards that cliche’d Next Level. The question of whether Mikel Arteta could have done that or not is academic now; a lot of people wanted him given that chance, but he will either remain at Manchester City for now or go get another coaching gig somewhere else.
What this means for the future of Arsenal as far as who’s next after Emery is...not really important right now? At least not to me. Arsenal have a whole lot of hard work to do in the here and now, and the world of football changes so quickly that if Emery, as I suspect, stays for two seasons and gets Arsenal back into the Champions League, he might not be around to see them actually compete in the Champions League. But that’s speculation for another day.
For now, my only speculation is: can Emery work his jacket zipper properly?