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Unai Emery & Arsenal: Why Gazidis right to choose El Maestro over Arteta

COMMENT: So what does a League and Cup Double - and three Europa League titles - get Arsenal? Well, that's easy... it's certainty.

Compared to the alternative, the protests against Unai Emery's appointment make absolutely no sense. The former PSG coach offers everything Mikel Arteta couldn't. Certainty on a pattern of play. Certainty on managing a dressing room. Certainty on the relationship with his football director. And above all else, a record of success.

For those in Arteta's corner, their arguments were baseless. In hope. Almost a projection. They had nothing concrete to cling onto - bar his relationship with Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager.

In contrast, Emery will arrive boasting greater recent success than the man he replaces. And he's shown he can achieve it in two different countries. Only in England... actually scrap that... only at Arsenal, could there be a section of support angry over the appointment of a just crowned Double winner. That Emery was axed after winning four out of the five titles available to PSG says more about their culture than the Basque.

"PSG is a bit of an ogre at this level. It eats their coaches very quickly," said Emery's now likely predecessor, Arsene Wenger, just last week.

But what about that Champions League failure? Yeah, never reaching the quarterfinals in his two seasons were reason for the axe. But to be stopped by Barcelona and Real Madrid over those two campaigns is nothing to be ashamed of.

So what is Arsenal getting? Well, don't believe the claims that Emery is the 'safe option'. The buttoned-up, Wenger Mk II he's being portrayed by some in the press today.

His former players in Spain dub him 'El Maestro'. The players' coach. One who is as interested in you off the field, as with your form on it. The man who will shake those responsible in making sure the wife has everything from the club she needs. To the same who will spend an entire week's training sessions deliberately effing and blindin' at a player to test his mental toughness.

"I'll f*** with him in training. All week! If he can't handle the pressure from me, then how is he going to go in a big match?" so recalled Igor Emery, Unai's brother, about his sibling's approach to one particular player at Almeria.

It was with Almeria where Emery launched the career of Felipe Melo. Before Juventus, Inter Milan and Brazil, Melo was basically a nutcase. At Almeria, some players were convinced 'he'll kill someone on the field'.

Emery, who leans as much on psychology as any tactical system, worked closely with Melo. At 24, his career could've nosedived. But Emery found a way for the midfielder to channel his aggression in the right way. And changed his life's direction in the process.

"I like working with everyone!" says Emery. "Sometimes a player just needs time. Veterans have a more developed ego and it's harder to get them going the way you want. Young people are 'virgin' products  that you can model more easily. With them, it's easier because they are hungry to learn."

Indeed, it wasn't money, Neymar or Paris which ultimately convinced Kylian Mbappe to choose PSG ahead of Real Madrid last August. It was the efforts of Emery. To travel to the Mbappe family home. To simply sit with the then Monaco teenager and talk football. Not money. Not transfers. Just football. It was that approach which convinced Dad Wilfried to back his son's decision to choose the Parisians over Real in the final week of the summer market.

Crucially, Emery's efforts were done in tandem with president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sports director Antero Henrique. He'll make his recommendations. He may even throw a strop if his signing choice is ignored for another. But he'll keep it behind closed doors. Three years of historic success at Sevilla with Monchi is proof of that. Just as we saw at PSG.

That will dovetail nicely into the plans of Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal's chief exec, and his management overhaul. Emery will know how to play nicely with messrs Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat.

But that's not to say he's a soft touch. The change on matchday will be noticeable for Arsenal fans. Not for 22 years will they have seen anything like Emery in the home dugout.

Just listen to Christian Gourcuff, the former Rennes coach: "In competition, everyone has their temperament. Some are more excited than others at the edge of the field. He is an extrovert. At first, it appeals to the public, to the players too. But often later, it annoys. I think it's better not to do such theatre. When we have done the work in the week, we do not need to harangue the players in this way during the match. I prefer the attitude of Wenger, for example, because my temperament is closer to that one."

So Gooners, on the touchline you're going to see something completely different. As are the players. And even the board.

He may've come from left-field, but Gazidis has done right in choosing Unai Emery as the man to lead the club in the post-Wenger era. Arsenal are in need of this certainty.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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