Ian Wright last night branded Arsenal’s managerial pursuit “embarrassing” after they got cold feet on Mikel Arteta to appoint Unai Emery.
Former Arsenal captain Arteta, 36, had been in pole position to get the job until the club’s hierarchy went for ex-Sevilla boss Emery at the 11th hour.
It was a major surprise as Arsenal now expect to announce Emery in the next 24 hours after lengthy discussions with chief executive Ivan Gazidis on Monday.
Arteta, 36, believed he had the job as late as the weekend before Arsenal decided to go for experience amid concerns about how it would be viewed by the club’s fan base.
Gunners legend Wright said: “Why have they strung Arteta along? Why not be honest and say: ‘this is what we are going to go for now.’
“Is it because of the public sway? It just seems really desperate.
“Arsenal getting in touch with Vieira for the manager’s job was tokenism. It’s embarrassing.”
It is an incredible blow for Arteta who will now return to his job on Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff at Manchester City even though he is believed to have interviewed well and even discussed a three year contract. But the worry was the fear of backlash from Arsenal fans about an inexperienced appointment and now they have done a last minute U-turn on Arteta.
Arsenal had prepared to offer Arteta a three year deal worth £4m-a-year with a one year break clause and the Spaniard was keen to take the job.
Arsenal insist that it is not a case of last minute cold feet and that they wanted to speak to all of the candidates before making an appointment.
They also insist that Emery has been spoken to a fortnight ago although the ex-Sevilla boss was quoted last week insisting that there had been no contact from Arsenal. Emery’s English was believed to be a major obstacle but Arsenal insist he can speak the language.
It appears as if Arsenal have gone for experience over Arteta’s ambition and enthusiasm and Emery won three back-to-back Europa League titles while in charge of Sevilla.
Emery is a top class European manager but sneaked up on the rails after the likes of Patrick Vieira, Max Allegri and Luis Enrique fell by the wayside.