Manager takes his resurgent team to Arsenal in the Europa League two months after arriving as an unknown and unpopular choice

When the phone rang, Filippo Giovagnoli was enjoying an extended holiday in his home village. There had been a delay in renewing his US visa but otherwise there was little strain in spending August with family and friends around Apecchio, a tiny settlement in Le Marche. Then the name of his boss, Jeffrey Saunders, at the Metropolitan Oval academy in New York flashed up on the screen and life began moving at a million miles an hour.

“He said to me: ‘Look, you’re going to receive a call, so be ready,’” Giovagnoli says. It would be from Dundalk, who had just parted company with Vinny Perth and needed a head coach. Giovagnoli was, by most measures, not an obvious choice. At 49 he had never managed a senior team even if his time in the States, as the renowned academy’s director of coaching, was widely considered a success. Six years previously he had been overseeing Milan’s transatlantic summer camps for youngsters but he was about to be pitched in among the Europa League big boys.

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