Did the Arsenal Board ingeniously manipulate us to accept Unai Emery’s appointment? By Nick Bugeja
It has just been announced that Spaniard Unai Emery will take over the reins at Arsenal. On aggregate, it’s an appointment that hasn’t received too much disapproval and disappointment from fans. I’m quite happy with it – Emery has won multiple trophies with Paris Saint Germain and Sevilla, demonstrated the ability to negotiate and manage player’s egos and he has brought through young talent in his squads.
Having said that, his appointment came as quite a shock. His name was rarely mentioned in connection with Arsenal’s vacant managerial position, and fans weren’t demanding him to be appointed.
Immediately after Arsène Wenger announced his departure, it was Luis Enrique, Max Allegri, Joachim Löw and Carlo Ancelotti that were on many supporters wish lists. And they were the ones being linked with the job.
As time went on, news of these candidates rejecting or being unsuitable for Arsenal came through regularly. Enrique’s salary demands were too steep, Löw wanted to remain as manager of the German national side, and Allegri was allegedly unprepared to leave Juventus. This ruled these managers out, leaving the club with a shorter – and less impressive – list of possible candidates.
Somewhere within this time frame – likely just after many of these candidates were deemed unavailable or inappropriate for the position – the Arteta links began to grow stronger and stronger. Most of us even thought it was a foregone conclusion that he would be the manager next season. But the question must be asked: were the Arteta links and talks genuine, or conducted for some other purpose?
Many fans have conjectured that the Arteta links were made public to gauge fan reaction. That is, their aim was to find out whether Arteta was a popular option for the job. If fans expressed support for him, he would be appointed. If they didn’t, he would be rejected. This tactic could’ve well been used by the Arsenal board, but there’s also another plausible reason why his name was so pervasively connected with the job.
The Arteta links could’ve been done to lower fans expectations, to make us content with any other option than Arteta himself. Surely the club knew before his links to the position that he wouldn’t be popular: he was an average player at the club, and has no senior managerial experience. It’s just common sense that he wouldn’t be a good appointment. If this is the case, as I suspect it is, there would’ve been no reason for the club to promote him as the likely candidate.
As the fans became resigned to the fact that Arteta would be following in Wenger’s shoes, Emery made a late dash to secure the job. It is in this specific context that many fans have now begun to embrace Emery; not just because of his record, but also because he isn’t Arteta. The club perhaps used Arteta to quell fan dissatisfaction with whomever was to take over as manager, to make the actual managerial appointment seem much better and more promising than Arteta. After having early and sustained success with Wenger, our expectations were admittedly high, and it was no doubt in the interest of the Arsenal Board to lower them in whatever possible way, to take the pressure and scrutiny off Ivan Gazidis, Stan Kroenke and the like.
I’m not one for conspiracy theory, but this is a distinct possibility. At any rate, we should all wait and see how Emery performs in the position before demanding his removal. There’s a decent chance he can – and will – bring success to Arsenal FC.