In football, as in life, there are a fair few set-in-stone traits perfectly geared to irk. On Monday night, almost spontaneously, fans of Arsenal Football Club began to embody and showcase one of these traits with unwavering irritation.
Like a Beemer driving accountant, Bluetooth earpiece wedged into their skull, sockless loafers protruding from sand coloured corduroy, Arsenal fans have thrust their newfound cockiness into the world thanks to the apparent appointment of Unai Emery.
The Spaniard’s reported succession of Arsene Wenger after 22 years at the helm did seemingly come out of the blue. With every Gooner in north London – or anywhere, really, take your pick – convinced that their former chiseled Scott Tracy impersonator, Mikel Arteta, was set to take over, Emery’s appointment took most by surprise.
But that’s no reason to react with such a knee-jerk convulsion. Some fans (not all, of course, don’t wet yourself) have responded to the former Paris Saint-Germain gaffer heading to London in a manner not dissimilar to Mary Berry regarding a steaming pile of sh*te. They’ve turned their noses up and huffed, unimpressed and loftily insulted by the very presence of such an eye-sore.
While this might be the expected reaction from Mrs Berry, for Gooners it’s a worryingly high notch above their station.
Arsenal is nowhere near the kind of club successful enough to look down upon the likes of Unai Emery. Complaints about his CV abound since the reports emerged, none being supported or justified by a shoddy track record.
Emery has notched up three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla – we repeat: three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla, one more European trophy than in Arsenal’s history – as well as five pieces of domestic silverware in two years at PSG.
Arsenal fans seem to have forgotten both that Arsene Wenger arrived at the club with little or no track record himself and that they’re simply not big enough these days to stand head and shoulders above any of Emery’s last four teams. If we’re being honest, heading from PSG to AFC may be more of a challenge, but it’s certainly a step down the ladder.
Had Wenger been hoofed out and away from Highbury back when he’d just masterminded the Invincibles to glory, we would easily have understood the sour reaction to Emery’s appointment.
Then, they were on top of the world. Now, they prop the rest of it up like a stick-figure Atlas.
The real big players in world football don’t want to take on a job at a club languishing shyly in the Premier League’s sixth place, especially when such a club has a cohort of fans who enjoyed good times under a manager who’d led the club from time immemorial. It’s not a great pitch.
Flirting with Arteta as manager proves this better than anything. The 36-year-old may know the club and fans inside out, but he hasn’t a minute of first-team management experience, and the potential to fail due to being way out of his depth is high. Singing Arteta’s praises is nothing but mere nostalgic exaltation.
Emery is quite clearly not one of the truly cutting-edge gaffers that fans might have wanted. Neither is he going to prove a favourite on the terraces within a week. Who could? Replacing someone two decades into a job isn’t an easy task. Just look at Manchester United.
He’s a good gaffer and Arsenal are a good club. That’s where it ends, though: good.
They’re not world-beaters and they’re not the giants they once were. Emery has both room and time to grow. He’s got a lot of managerial developing to do and errors to iron out, but so do the club he’s joining.
Throwing up arms and complaining about a young, talented manager with a strong track record taking over the reigns at a club formerly renowned for its status as a cringey punchline is emblematic of the rot that has set in and opened an artisan food shop at Arsenal Football Club.
The arrogance and desperation to moan has become tedious not just for real Gunners, but for the rest of us too. Whether we blame the walking, talking, opinionated foreskins on Arsenal Fan TV or not is another issue: the perma-drone of entitled demands has become a drain on enjoying football.
Arsenal are the only club Emery would sign for who could possibly manage to slag off the decision in their hoards before it’s even been confirmed.
For that reason alone, it’s fair to say that we can all hope Arsenal and Emery is a match made in mediocre footballing heaven. While it will give the most contemptible berks something to celebrate on YouTube, it will teach supporters to wait a moment before offering their grimey two cents.
Arsene Wenger was a man of class in his years with his beloved north London side. He, of all people, would be most appalled by some of the reactions to Emery’s appointment. Clamber back down from that high horse, Gooners.