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Unai Emery Praises Ivan Gazidis After AC Milan Move Confirmed

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2018

CARDIFF, WALES - SEPTEMBER 02: Unai Emery manager of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Arsenal FC at Cardiff City Stadium on September 2, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Unai Emery isn't worried about Ivan Gazidis stepping down as Arsenal chief executive to join AC Milan, believing the man who hired him to replace Arsene Wenger this summer will be replaced by competent successors.

Emery spoke about Gazidis leaving and Arsenal's plan not to hire a direct replacement, per FourFourTwo: "His decision (to leave) is a private one which I respect. I know Ivan is giving us the best next people (as his successors) to take the responsibility to continue to do good work."

The successors Emery referred to are Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham. They were appointed after Gazidis resigned on Tuesday. He will assume his responsibilities with the Rossoneri in December, per the club's official website

Sanllehi was hired by Gazidis under the title head of football relations.

Gunners chairman Sir Chips Keswick said Sanllehi, once of Barcelona, is now expected to lead the club's "football activities."

Meanwhile, Venkatesham has been serving as Arsenal's chief commercial officer but will now become managing director.

He is well thought of by some:

Elliot Richardson @ElliotR1971

Great decision by @Arsenal on the new structure. I have worked with Vinai for years and very closely over the last 3 as the Arsenal board director for @Dugout. He is hugely respected by his peer group and most importantly wants to win. He also holds dear the values of AFC.

The London Evening Standard's James Benge reported Venkatesham "played a significant role in expanding Arsenal's range of sponsors and is credited with playing a leading role in negotiations for the club's new kit deal next season, widely expected to see them make the switch from Puma to Adidas."

Gazidis' replacements, who will essentially split his duties into sporting and non-sporting tasks, may be highly qualified, yet Gazidis' decision to walk away from a club he remade this summer has to have surprised many, particularly Emery.

The Spaniard was chosen to succeed Wenger after the Frenchman had spent nearly 22 years at the helm.

While he hasn't worked long with Gazidis, Emery spoke about the importance of their initial conversations, per FourFourTwo: "The first three months with Ivan were very important for me because he's a big person, and a professional person too. The relationship between us was very close for three months. We spoke a lot about football, about management, about how big Arsenal is and our responsibility."

Gazidis may have helped Emery get acclimated in north London, but he is moving on at a curious time. It was Gazidis who was largely credited with creating and accelerating a smooth transition from the Wenger era.

Gazidis help facilitate Wenger's resignation and the search for his replacement.
Gazidis help facilitate Wenger's resignation and the search for his replacement.Clive Rose/Getty Images

He hired Sanllehi and head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, significantly reducing Wenger's authority over team matters in the process. The moves helped signal a revolution of how things are run at Arsenal, yet Gazidis is moving on before the fruits of his labour can be seen.

His decision will also intensify the spotlight on Emery. He is already under pressure to fill Wenger's shoes and fix the problems common during the final years of the latter's tenure.

Not having the presence of the man who rubber-stamped his appointment could deny Emery a crucial ally if he begins to struggle.

Another change among the club's decision-makers further underlines the scale of the overhaul Arsenal have undertaken since Wenger announced he was stepping down back in April.

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