Just Don’t Do A Moyes...
‘Wenger Out’ may have become a popular refrain at Arsenal towards the end of his reign but replacing the all-powerful Arsene won’t be easy. It may even take four men to fill his shoes
Arsenal is re-inventing itself, post-Arsene, and with an Aussie
The French-Catalan flatulist Joseph Pujol boasted impeccable bowel and sphincter control. Better known by his stage name Le Petomane – a neologism meaning ‘the farting maniac’ – Pujol enthralled late-19th century crowds across France with his ability to break wind tunefully. Not only could he fart La Marseillaise, Pujol could also perform vignettes from Offenbach to Verdi, from an elephant’s deep bass to the domineering snarl of a French president. Pujol could even sit, like a yoga instructor, in a bowl of water and draw the liquid up inside himself, before squirting it out up to five yards across the stage. Many people believed Le Petomane’s prodigious gifts to be a genetic anomaly, but they were the result of meticulous practice and relentless discipline. Pujol dedicated hours every day to refining his act, one which fascinated packed Moulin Rouge audiences and counted the future king Edward VII among its celebrity admirers. Unai Emery is no different, intestinal workings and royal approval aside. The Spaniard is both a football obsessive and avid reader, someone whose success is as much a result of his relentless hard work and quest for self-improvement as any innate tactical awareness. Sevilla’s coaching staff used to joke that Emery spent so long working at the training ground, he’d end up eating three meals a day there. Emery’s motto is simple and applies to both his players and himself: “Con talento y sin talante no llegamos, pero con talante y sin talento tampoco.” With talent but not the will, we won’t get anywhere, but neither will we with the will and no talent. Any Arsenal player hoping for an easy post-Arsene Wenger ride and having the autonomy to please themselves would do well to read on. And get ready for questionnaires, training sessions as intense as the North London derby and videos. Lots of videos. Unai Emery Etxegoien hated playing football. Born in Hondarribia, the picturesque port town on Spain’s northern Basque border with France, he soon realised that the family business may not be for him. His father and grandfather were both goalkeepers of distinction – the latter, Antonio, conceded La Liga’s first ever goal in February 1929, a 3-2 defeat for Real Union at Espanyol. But young Unai increasingly allowed his worries to consume him, and instead paid more attention to Spanish comics such as El Jabato (The Wild Boar) and the slapstick Mort & Phil than football. “I was something of a wimp,” he later admitted. “When I didn’t get picked, I’d breathe a sigh of relief – I felt so under pressure.” Emery’s silky left foot brought five appearances for Real Sociedad in 1995-96, scoring in an 8-1 thrashing of Albacete. However, he slowly drifted down Spain’s football pyramid, sucked onto “a hamster wheel which you can’t get off” with a series of short-term deals at Racing Ferrol, Leganes and Lorca Deportiva in his early 30s. Unable to shake off a persistent knee injury at Lorca, Emery began taking his coaching badges. Once told by Real boss John Toshack that “a good coach must be the opposite of what they were as a player”, Emery realised that to ‘reach’ a player, you had to understand them as people in a way that “none of my managers could overcome my deficiencies as a player”. Yes, he was talented and read the game well, but no coach had ever lit the fire to get the best from Emery the player. But over Christmas 2004, Emery the manager got his first chance to shine. With Lorca mid-table in third-tier Segunda B, their director of football Pedro Reverte replaced manager Quique Yague with the injured midfielder, so impressed was he with Emery’s tactical brain from the stands. Yague thought his senior player had stabbed him in the back. The pair haven’t spoken since. “We had seven days’ holiday over Christmas and I said goodbye to my team-mates like any other player,” Emery later recalled. “I came back and said, ‘Hi, I’m your new coach’. It was difficult, but I got so involved in my role from the start that I didn’t think about it – I knew the players so well that it all flowed fairly easily.”