Ivan Gazidis hailed the start of a “new chapter” in Arsenal history as he unveiled his new head coach Unai Emery at the Emirates Stadium. Detailing the process that ended with Arsenal making the surprise appointment of the former PSG manager, Gazidis insisted that Emery was the first-choice pick of him, Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi, the three-man committee to find Arsene Wenger’s replacement.
Gazidis sat alongside Emery at Wednesday afternoon’s press conference, one month after he had given the press conference explaining why Wenger was stepping down after 22 years in charge. The Arsenal chief executive confirmed that the club started the interview process for the new manager five days after that, concluding it with the last interview on 15 May.
The three-man committee wanted a manager who played “aggressive, entertaining football”, who fitted with “Arsenal values” and who had a “record of developing young players”. They formulated an eight-man long-list which was whittled down to a three-man shortlist last week. Emery was interviewed on 10 May and impressed Gazidis with his “detailed knowledge” of Arsenal players and staff.
“I was really pleased with the level of interest and engagement and we had some top, top-class candidates in that pool,” Gazidis said. “We had tens of hours of video tape on the three finalists that we eventually narrowed it down to. We were watching, with expert eyes, coaching in action on the pitch. We took extensive personal references from really top quality people across the game, people we could trust.”
Gazidis then insisted that he, Mislintat and Sanllehi each independently chose Emery as their preferred pick to take over, even though former Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta had been widely expected to be appointed until this Monday.
“We sat aside a day when we got to the end of that process, Thursday or Friday [of last week],” Gazidis said. “We went through a pretty wide-ranging discussion, challenging each other on as much as we could on preconceptions and assumptions we might have had going into the process. We spent an entire day discussing among those three. At the end of the day, three of us all wrote on a piece of paper, 1, 2, 3, and put them into the middle of the table. And the choices were all 1, 2, 3 the same. And Unai was at the top of all of our lists.”
The committee made the recommendation on Friday to the board to appoint Emery, which was supported by a 100-page dossier, and which was unanimously approved. Emery met the London members of the Arsenal board on Monday, then flew out to Atlanta, Georgia, to meet Stan Kroenke and his son Josh, returning to London overnight on Tuesday night to be unveiled Wednesday afternoon.
After years of Wenger’s personal rule, Arsenal will now be run by a very different hierarchy, with Gazidis, Sanllehi, Mislintat and Emery set to call the shots as a collective. And Gazidis hailed the importance of the relationships between the four of them.
“Process does make a difference, and I think sitting with people and seeing them face-to-face and interacting with them, that’s important,” Gazidis said. “As we think about the way we’ve reshaped how Arsenal will operate, the relationships and the chemistry are going to be very important. So it was very important to me to have Sven and Raul and Unai and myself in the room, talking about not just football philosophy, but the way the club works, how Unai and his tream will fit into that in some detail.”
Pointing to the changes that he has made behind the scenes at Arsenal over recent years, Gazidis said that with hard work, Arsenal can start to move in the right direction again. “There are so many stories in sport of people who achieve things that were not believed possible at the beginning of the journey, because they focused on that process of just getting a little bit better every day,” he said.
“It’s not going to be instant. This kind of significant change in a club doesn’t deliver instant success, nobody is naive enough to think that. But I do think the new way of working, the new energy, stimulates the environment, it’s going to be very positive. I could not possibly feel better about this appointment.”
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