LONDON • In a surprise twist on Monday, Arsenal opted for experience with Unai Emery and are prepared to make the Spaniard Arsene Wenger's successor later this week.
Former Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta, 36, had been considered as the favourite to become the next manager for the past week.
But the Gunners had second thoughts about giving Arteta his first management role when Emery indicated that he was also available.
Emery left Paris Saint-Germain this month after winning one Ligue 1 title but failed to advance beyond the Champions League last-16 stage during his two seasons in France.
He previously enjoyed success at Sevilla, whom he led to three Europa League titles.
The 46-year-old has also managed Valencia and Spartak Moscow in a career that has featured six clubs in 13 years but would be a left-field appointment given that he did not feature on the original shortlist and speaks limited English.
Arsenal are believed to have also sounded out Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique and former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira.
Unai Emery won the French domestic treble in his last season at PSG.
Emery is understood to have performed impressively at his interview and surprised Arsenal executives with his passion for the job.
He also got a strong endorsement from his compatriot Raul Sanllehi, the club's head of football relations.
Arsenal have yet to formally offer Emery the job, but are ready to give him a long-term contract.
On Monday, associates of Arteta said he was stunned by the news. He had discussed possible transfer targets and the composition of his backroom team. Arsenal were reportedly ready to offer Arteta a three-year contract with the option for a 12-month extension.
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright was also taken aback by the London club's change of heart.
"Where's Unai Emery come from?" he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"I wouldn't be disgruntled as an Arsenal fan about Unai Emery, I think the fact he's come out of left field when everyone's thinking 'it's going to be Arteta', that's the only problem."
Spanish football expert Guillem Balague believes Emery is someone "that wins trophies and will (sharpen) people up" but questioned why Arsenal's top two candidates are so different.
"Arteta, who missed out for lack of experience, has very little to do with Emery," he tweeted. "What are Arsenal looking for?"
Arteta would have represented the club's values, including giving youth a chance, and play fast and attractive football.
Emery is not a possession junkie. In his three full seasons in charge of Sevilla, their average share of possession per LaLiga match dropped from 53.1 per cent in 2013-14 to 49.6 per cent in 2015-16. He appeared to find it hard to coach a team who were expected to dominate the ball.
He is happy to work within the management structure that Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has put in place at the Emirates Stadium - in which there are prominent recruitment roles for Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat.
Arsenal's manager - who will take his squad to the International Champions Cup's Singapore leg from July 26-30 - is expected to have around £50 million (S$89.9 million), plus sales, to spend on reshaping the squad.
Santi Cazorla, the Arsenal midfielder, had been linked with a possible player-coach role under Arteta but he has now left the club upon the expiry of his contract.
He has not played since he injured his achilles in October 2016.
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN