As far as social experiments in football go, Arsenal’s this summer has been a doozy.
I doubt they set out to prove that some fans are whingy little grotbags – no, not you, dear reader – but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Definitively.
Years of crying for change, change, any sort of change, have been replaced by howls of anguish that the change coming isn’t what they wanted. So what, exactly, did they want?
Could it be that they all just want to feel relevant somehow? That they aren’t really upset at Arsenal but want to remain in the spotlight to feed their hollow and fragile egos?
That would make more sense than what appears to be happening.
Mikel Arteta wasn’t good enough for Arsenal because he hadn’t even managed a game, let alone won anything, but Unai Emery isn’t good enough either, for some.
To arrive at that conclusion, you have to deploy your strongest game of Top Trumps by denying reality and ignoring a ton of facts. Emery has had more success in Europe than Max Allegri, Luis Enrique, Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira combined.
Some in the press, along with some fans, have already got their knives out for him even though in his last five seasons he’s won more (8) than the Premier League’s top three darlings, Jose Mourinho (3), Jurgen Klopp (1) and Mauricio Pochettino (0) combined.
Even the magnificent Pep has won fewer trophies (7) in the same period. He hasn’t won a major European trophy in seven years. For Emery, it’s two. Emery lost 12 games in two seasons with PSG where he supposedly ‘failed’. Arsenal have lost 12 games since January.
Change. But not that change.
Arsenal reportedly interviewed 10 candidates for the job but because the papers didn’t cover their interest in Emery in depth, many assume he is a last minute, panic appointment. It’s a fair assumption. That’s generally how Arsenal operate, but even if it is, does that make it automatically bad?
It can feel, at times, like the Arsenal board is going out of its way to troll Arsenal fans but on this occasion, they have listened to us twice and still some of us whinge.
First, they told Wenger not to come back for next season. Secondly, the board, cold feet or not, seem to have heeded fans’ concerns about Arteta’s lack of experience and plumped for a more seasoned manager who has shown a willingness to develop, evolve and excite with the football he demands of his players.
Emery brings to the club much of what we all agree has been missing – tactical awareness, preparation, and a requirement that players actually give a shit rather than just rely on their own brilliance, real or imagined, to coast through matches. It’s hard not to look at Emery and be reminded of a young Arsene Wenger – and that is probably no coincidence. Gazidis wants to create another long-term empire despite modern football being no place for that sort of nonsense any more. But although Gazidis wants the power, he’s not entirely sure he wants the accountability that now comes with it.
Had Arsenal hired Arteta and he pulled a Moyes, Gazidis knows he would be blamed, not the manager.
In Emery, however, they have a man that shows the same sort of intelligence and poise as Wenger. The CEO will hope the new man will soak up any sourness like a mop so that he himself doesn’t have to fall on his arse.
Comparisons can be drawn between Emery and Wenger when he first arrived, too.
Aged 46, Emery is one month younger than Wenger was when he rocked up in London with two European club trophies on his CV and a far less recognisable name. That didn’t turn out too badly and Emery arrives with a far more impressive and up-to-date resume.
The shock of all this is not that Arsenal have opted for Emery but that Arteta was in the lead for so long.
Gazidis isn’t known for stepping outside his comfort zone, and while he’s forced himself out the door for a week or two, the immense repercussions of this decision saw him shuffle back inside, draw the curtains and reach for someone a lot safer.
There is nothing to indicate that Emery will be a bad manager for Arsenal but somehow that’s not enough. Arsenal fans have been crying for change for years. Some have been wailing so long, it’s a habit they just can’t quit.
They need an intervention, an Arsenal Anonymous meeting called to help them with their sickness but all they get is AFTV and many in the mainstream media feeding their addiction.
Like many with a problem, they can’t even see what’s really good for them. Unai Emery at Arsenal could be great for all of us. At the very least he is not Arsene Wenger.
Isn’t that all they said they wanted?