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Unai Watch: Nothing to see here

Troubling information, but with lots of caveats.

Arsenal FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

It’s always fun when things aren’t stable at the top, isn’t it? Arsenal fans are used to a certain amount of turbulence surrounding the manager; it was a fairly constant presence in the last three or four years of Wenger’s time at the club, after all. After a bit of a grace period, Unai Emery was the subject of the same turbulence late last season, and that turbulence has only intensified this season as Arsenal have indifferented their way to dropped points where they shouldn’t, and suffered losses that they probably should have avoided.

In short, things aren’t all sunshine and lollipops in London right now. There’s been relentless speculation recently about what would happen next if a lot of fans’ wishes were granted and Unai Emery were shown the door with immediate effect. The most recent speculation, of course, was ESPN’s entirely fictional linking of Jose Mourinho with the Arsenal job - speculation, recall, that they built by saying, without any attribution or actual source, “Jose Mourinho would be interested in managing Arsenal if Unai Emery were sacked”. As I’ve said elsewhere, that carries as much weight as a news outlet saying I’d be interested in someone giving me $50 million. Of course I’d be interested in that; that doesn’t mean it’s even remotely possible that it’s going to happen.

There has been a lot of wish-listing by fans as well, with the usual suspects (Allegri, Hasenhuttl, etc) being put on a lot of people’s wish lists and a lot of conversation around what names go on whose lists. It’s all part of the fun (?) of having a manager flail and be less successful than most fans might want.

Well, today, there are some rumblings from the club about the managerial situation: WARNING: these are not rumblings in a direction you might want

yyyyyyyyup. The Arsenal front office, who we’ve all been quietly impressed with throughout the restructuring of the club, has apparently decided Emery is good enough. Which, um. Anyway, there’s more!

There’s a lot to unpack here. First and foremost, the most massive of caveats applies here: James Olley is not, say, David Ornstein. These tweets do not indicate that they come from inside the club itself, they don’t list any attribution (even a “sources close to the club” would be reassuring). While I don’t think Olley would make things up out of whole cloth like the ESPN reports about Mourinho, I also don’t know how well-connected he is within the club, and how likely he would be to get this information. For all we know, this could be a “I heard this from my friend who has a friend whose brother is the husband of the VP of HR”-level game of telephone.

Secondly, I have a very, very hard time believing that an organization the size (both operational and financial) and complexity of Arsenal would not have a continuity of operations plan, and that that plan wouldn’t, at all times, include a managerial shortlist. Teams keep gigabytes of data on prospective players in every position; there’s absolutely no way they don’t have a list of managers as well, even if the data on those managers is mostly just contact phone numbers and current contract end dates/buyout provisions.

In a way, I can kinda see what the club is doing here. If they are, truly, not going to get rid of Emery, they see the reaction in the media (both traditional and social), and these public noises of solidarity are no doubt built to reassure Emery that the club, at least, has his back. I may not agree with it, but I understand it.

So, if these tweets are to be believed, buckle up, Arsenal fans. It’s going to be a long season of pretty much exactly what you saw on Saturday. I’ll let Todd Chavez speak for me on that.