Merci Arsene?

Unai Emery’s interview with Marca paints a more realistic picture

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Firstly apologies that things have been rather quiet on the website of late. Truth to tell, much of the time, it can be a bit of a one man band here (unlike the printed fanzine, which it is far easier to get contributions for). And that one man has been very busy over the international break doing other stuff I won’t bore you with. Anyway, I was intrigued to read this morning that Unai Emery had done an interview with ‘Marca’ in which he talked about taking the Arsenal job and his time there so far. There’s a link to a translated version here if you have not already read it in full. And of course, meanings can get skewed in translation.

However, what it does indicate is that Arsene Wenger’s successor has a different view of the state the club was left in by his predecessor. At the end of October, the now departed man from Alsace said, ‘When Arsenal win I am happy. I felt I worked very hard and I think I left it in good shape. As a manager you have an influence, not only on the careers of players, the style of play and results but on the structure and impact you give to the club and overall that is very important – that the club can always continue at a very good level.’

There is no longer any need to protect Wenger’s legacy on the club’s part, although I am pretty certain that Marca did not have to go through the copy approval process because Emery would have had an existing relationship with the Spanish press and the interview could have been organised without going through the Arsenal press office. What he said was enlightening. On the changes that had to be made, he reflected, “The chairs had to be moved in all sectors of the club. And not because of previous negligence, but to motivate everyone again: to shake it up, to sweep things under the carpet, to open the windows, all positive things.”

Now, the lost in translation dilemma. Is he stating ‘previous negligence’ as a fact, or saying it didn’t happen. This is clarified later on when he said, “Arsenal were falling. We had to stop that and start to lift them.”

He spoke about the post-Invincible years in the following terms: “with time, you can only take care of technique and attacking freedom, losing your defensive structure. What I want to do is unite the two and become more competitive.” Interesting use of the word “you” as if to suggest it was generic. I’d say here, this is another case of Spanish and English getting confused. Of course you can take care of the defensive structure, it’s just that this did not happen at Arsenal. What Emery surely meant is that his predecessor only took care of technique and attacking freedom.

More interesting though is the notion that Wenger tried to give the new man some pointers, the benefit of his knowledge about what Emery was inheriting. Asked whether Emery spoke to Arsene, he stated, "Not about the team. I ran into him once and not many more times. I respect him a lot, but no matter how much information he gave me, I had to change things. I told the players 'we are starting at ground zero'. Even now, four months later, I still say 'we are just at the beginning!'"

The real eye-opener though was the changes in nutrition, the area in which Arsene developed his reputation in England. Emery recalled, “There were habits that we could improve on in terms of nutrition. Together with the nutritionist and the fitness coach, we decided to get rid of juice with sugar, but that's normal and what I do at home: eat without sugar, less fat, healthier food.”

Everyone knows things have been shaken up at the club, with an attendant upturn in performances, although the gains have so far been marginal in terms of points – the team are only two points better off after 12 games than last season. But as Emery has stated this is just the beginning. You can’t turn around a juggernaut quickly, and the club fell into bad habits that still linger and will do until all of Wenger’s players have been moved on.

Certainly, six dropped points from their last three Premier League matches have been a setback, but there is currently optimism that things can only get better.  Realistically, Emery needs two more summer transfer windows before the club can compete for the title again, and given the likely squeeze on finances, for that to happen the club need to shop smart. There is a difficult sequence of matches coming up, and unfortunately, I suspect patience amongst the fanbase will start to run out for those who anticipate more immediate results.

Frankly, getting the team back into the top four this season, given the improvements made by Spurs and Liverpool since their respective managers arrived, will be a laudable achievement. That, sadly, is how far Arsenal slipped.

The current issue of The Gooner can be bought online here.

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  1. mbg

    Nov 24, 2018, 21:11 #112564

    1971 Gooner, good post, and Unai even mentioned George while ridiculing wengers defensive prowess that he might have to take a leaf out of his book to put things right definsibly, i bet that really pissed wenger off when he read that.

  2. mbg

    Nov 24, 2018, 20:11 #112563

    It's great and refreshing (just like the changes) that Unai isn't in awe of wenger and treating him like some great manager/messiah of the club,(like a nodding dog appointment by wenger himself would, and his luvvies did and do) by speaking out and telling the truth about him and not pussy footing around treating him like some great/top manager and saying all these false nice things like they all do, by telling the truth, that he was taking/bringing this club down for years, and would have if his AKB wengerites would have had their way.

  3. Made Up Stat

    Nov 23, 2018, 22:11 #112562

    Translation can be very misleading sometimes. For example, 'Er, no you're alright. We'll call you if we change our minds in offering you a position here', into vernacular Alsace French phraseology means 'We're really, really considering you for a position here. Please feel free to provide interviews to the world's media with space to fill that you're still in demand'.

  4. CORNISH GOONER

    Nov 23, 2018, 19:11 #112561

    I don't think we should worry about Dick being dumped - my fear is that Wiggy will not provide the financial support that will be necessary as we don't seem to have sufficient talent to bridge the existing gap to make top 4 again. imo it is more likely that Dick will dump us!! I don't think people realise that, maybe fortuitously, we have recruited a world class manager who at 47 (?) should still have his best years ahead of him.

  5. markymark

    Nov 23, 2018, 17:11 #112560

    We’ve had Unai’s comments on the playing side and I believe Sanhelli’s comments regarding players contracts. Both when you read them are pretty clear , obvious and actually damning . I hope Unai gets the time with the supporters and board to fix it as personally I like him. My lurking fear is he’ll be sacrificed somewhere down the line with the next guy picking up all the glory for the solid structural stuff that Unai has bought in. As a supporter I’m now super annoyed when we don’t grab the 3 points. I’ve realised this is a big turnaround from seasons previous where I’d literally be praying for 3 points or last season almost celebrating defeat as a means to an end of removing Wenger.

  6. markymark

    Nov 23, 2018, 17:11 #112559

    We’ve had Unai’s comments on the playing side and I believe Sanhelli’s comments regarding players contracts. Both when you read them are pretty clear , obvious and actually damning . I hope Unai gets the time with the supporters and board to fix it as personally I like him. My lurking fear is he’ll be sacrificed somewhere down the line with the next guy picking up all the glory for the solid structural stuff that Unai has bought in. As a supporter I’m now super annoyed when we don’t grab the 3 points. I’ve realised this is a big turnaround from seasons previous where I’d literally be praying for 3 points or last season almost celebrating defeat as a means to an end of removing Wenger.

  7. 1971 Gooner

    Nov 23, 2018, 16:11 #112558

    The more I listen to Unai, the more I think we have appointed the right man. A serious and dedicated professional. I could particularly care less where we finish in the league this year; this phase of Arsenal feels a bit like when George Graham took over - build for a season or two and success will come.

  8. The Man From UNCLE

    Nov 23, 2018, 10:11 #112557

    The next three games will see where we can expect to finish this season. Bournemouth should be well up for it on Sunday and it'll be a good test I think.

  9. mbg

    Nov 22, 2018, 21:11 #112556

    So TOF thinks he left the club in good shape, he probably believes that, sad, and he tried to give Unai some pointers ? lol, going by the changes he's made and the good run we've had etc, i can imagine what he done with those. Unai was right the club was falling alright and falling fast (and long before he took over too) even though some didn't realise it, or want to realise it (and we know who they were) and Unai is right again we still have a long way to go whether some want to realise that or not either, and it's all because of wenger.

  10. RobG

    Nov 22, 2018, 18:11 #112555

    If we do better than fifth - I will be both surprised and delighted. I hope we see a bit more of Smith-Rowe and Nkieta and perhaps one or two others. But I agree on the two more summer windows bit. Certainly not expecting anything in this winter window. But we are on the up !!