Stop sniggering at the back, we really are talking about the Arsenal here.
The same Arsenal who finished the Premier League season THIRTY-SEVEN points behind Manchester City, with a historically poor squad and a modest £50million budget for renovations.
Arsenal’s new head coach Unai Emery kept talking about a ‘project’. Well, this is the sort of ‘project’ homebuyers refer to when they have just purchased a wreck.
The unveiling of Arsene Wenger’s successor was a day Ivan Gazidis had been waiting years for.
Arsenal’s chief executive was determined to enjoy stepping out of the shadows and was sounding very pleased with himself.
A dog with two doodahs could not have barked any louder about the desirability of the job Emery was inheriting or the thoroughness and brilliance of the recruitment process Gazidis had personally overseen.
He said eight candidates were interviewed and claimed none withdrew their interest — although the idea that either Max Allegri of Juventus or the ex-Barcelona coach Luis Enrique would have accepted such a limited transfer budget and wage package seems highly unlikely.
LISTEN UP Emery has THIS message for his predecessor Wenger
Emery will be very much a ‘head coach’ rather than the all-knowing, all-powerful manager Wenger had been for 22 years.
That means Gazidis, head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and head of football relations Raul Sanllehi will enjoy far more power.
Gazidis now has his own office at Arsenal’s training ground and has been known to sign autographs for supporters waiting outside.
He fancies himself as being among the new breed of boardroom Galacticos.
Emery, who failed to make a Champions League breakthrough in two years at Paris Saint-Germain, is seemingly happy to accept the limited scope of his job.
It has been almost a decade since Gazidis arrived at Arsenal from Major League Soccer and he is not the only Gunners director to have wished that Wenger could have been eased out a few years earlier.
He was always going to be judged on getting this appointment right and claims that he, Mislintat and Sanllehi were independently unanimous about Emery when choosing from a three-man shortlist which included favourite Mikel Arteta.
Gazidis said: “We were happy when we made the decision and we’re getting happier all the time.”
The buzzwords of the day were Emery’s ‘new energy’ — while the Spaniard spoke of a need for urgent pressing, a line which will have Mesut Ozil waking up in cold sweats.
Gazidis underlined the need for patience, insisting success would ‘not be instant’.
Yet, while trying desperately hard to be polite about Wenger, he was clear that last season was nowhere near good enough.
He said: “I do not think anyone thinks sixth place, for a club the size of Arsenal, is acceptable.
“All of our players will respond positively to the new energy Unai brings.
“They’ll improve individually and collectively and if they embrace those challenges then they can be more successful.”
Arsenal and Unai Emery specials for 2018/19 season
Arsenal/Emery To NOT Win A Trophy – 1/2
Arsenal/Emery To Win A Trophy – 6/4
Arsenal/Emery Top 4 Finish – 5/2
Arsenal/Emery To Win The Premier League – 25/1
Arsenal/Emery Relegated From Premier League – 250/1
Full list of candidates – HERE
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And this is the crux of it, if Gazidis’ smugness is not going to end up looking misplaced.
It appears that he, Mislintat, Sanllehi and Emery have convinced themselves the squad is largely good enough with only limited tinkering needed — and £50m is a drop in the ocean compared to what the Manchester clubs plan to invest.
They seem to believe that only Wenger and his coaching staff were holding these players back. And that is the definition of optimism.
Emery has a very decent CV, including three straight Europa League titles at Sevilla, and his is no mean appointment.
But he will need to be a miracle-worker if Arsenal are to prove themselves as high and mighty as Gazidis fancies them.
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