If there’s one thing Unai Emery thinks he can learn from Jurgen Klopp, it’s to smile more.
The Arsenal coach will go up against Klopp on Saturday for the first time since besting the German in the 2016 Europa League final with Sevilla, knowing that this Liverpool side has come a long way since that game.
Emery has been tasked with essentially emulating Klopp’s success at the Emirates — turning a sixth-place Premier League finisher into a genuine title contender — and he’s aware that he may need as much time as Klopp has been afforded.
But he wants to make sure he is enjoying the journey just as much as the Liverpool boss is.
“I want to quickly [reach] our best performance, but I know we need a process,” Emery said when asked if he will also need three years to return Arsenal to Europe’s elite. “I know we need time for improving and this development. I want to do it while enjoying every day. I look at him, Klopp, and he smiles every day. I want to smile like him. And then the smile is bigger when you win. But I think we need to do things positively and while smiling and enjoying.”
The constant pressure that comes with managing a big club means Klopp’s jovial mood is a rarity among top coaches these days, and Emery admitted it’s a quality he admires.
“Yes. I need to learn also to smile more. When we win it’s more easy, and I smile also. But I need also to smile in other moments,” he said. “But our work is very demanding, and every day we need to be very, very prepared for each match. But then it’s very important also to transmit ones smile to the players.”
Learning new skills is nothing new for Emery, who is constantly looking for ways to improve — whether it’s studying English or psychology to get the best out of his squad. The Spaniard has a long-standing habit of reading self-help books, and even used to hand them out to players at former clubs. He hasn’t given any books to Arsenal’s players so far, although that may be coming soon.
“I usually give the players some books to read, but not yet here. They are books for personal development,” he said. “I need to continue reading books, I like a lot to learn from other people in the world, different people with success. Then I use [the knowledge] for me, and I use it also to give the players my experience or my learning in every moment. [A player’s] performance is about quality and also working together tactically, but the most important is the head, is the mentality.”
Asked for his latest read, Emery listed a Spanish book called “Good Luck: Creating the conditions for success in life and business.”
It’s a book that the publisher describes as a “whimsical fable” that teaches the reader a lesson about how luck doesn’t come ones way without being earned.
“I recommend it,” Emery said.
The Spaniard might need a bit of luck against Liverpool in order to ensure he can celebrate his 47th birthday on Saturday with a Klopp-like smile on his face.
“I want to smile after the match and enjoy my birthday,” he said. “But the most important is the match.”