Unai Emery paid a glowing tribute to the legacy of former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as he held his first news conference hours after being named as the Frenchman’s successor on Wednesday.
Speaking in stilted English after being introduced to awaiting media by club CEO Ivan Gazidis at the Emirates Stadium, the Spaniard also said he was proud to follow in Wenger’s footsteps.
“It’s a big challenge but I’ve worked also with other big projects and for me I am proud to be here and to work after Arsene Wenger,” he told reporters.
“In my career every year I grow up with new challenges and for me the challenge is a dream come true.”
Arsenal‘s first new manager since Wenger, who was also 46 at the time, was introduced to a quizzical media in 1996, Emery spoke highly of the man he has replaced.
“Thanks Arsene Wenger for your legacy, for all the coaches in all the world he is revered and I learn with him all the things in football,” he said.
Emery, who won three consecutive Europa Leagues with Sevilla before spending two years at Paris St Germain, winning a domestic treble this past season, was one of eight candidates who went through an extensive interview process, Gazidis said.
“He is a very good fit,” said Gazidis. “In the personal meetings Unai was incredibly impressive, he had a detailed knowledge of the club and was very well prepared.”
Emery, who has won eight trophies since 2013-14, opted against discussing individual players such as Jack Wilshere who is out of contract.
However, he did offer some clue as to what kind of football Arsenal fans can expect as the club tries to regain its place in England’s elite after missing out on the top four for the second successive season.
“In my career I am very demanding of myself as well as the people at the club and the players,” he said.
“The history here is one thing, they love to play with possession of the ball. I like this personality and when we don’t have the ball I want a squad to play with intensive pressure. Two important things are possession of the ball and pressing when you haven’t got it.”
Emery faces an important close season of squad tweaking but without the huge sums of money available at PSG.
He was not afraid to set lofty targets, though.
“I believe we can grow with the players we have. The objective is to work hard together and with these talented players to work,” he said.
“It’s very important for the club, after two years outside the Champions League, to work to be the best team in the Premier League and also in the world.”