Few had heard of Giovagnoli, who had an unspectacular playing career in Serie C and spent the last six years as director of coaching at the Metropolitan Oval Academy in New York.
Many Dundalk fans questioned if Giovagnoli was qualified to do the job. In fairness, they had a point, because neither he or assistant Giuseppe Rossi possess a Uefa Pro Licence so can’t be in the dugout at Emirates Stadium on Thursday night.
Analyst Shane Keegan will be there instead when Arsenal face a side from the Republic of Ireland in a competitive game for the first time.
Giovagnoli, though, has defied the odds, in what is his first managerial job, to guide Dundalk to the Europa League group stage.
“Sometimes when you start a mission it is a kamikaze, but then the dream and the mission become the normality,” said the 49-year-old, who was appointed by owners Peak6 Sports, a US investment firm who took over the club in 2018.
“I am the proof that anything is possible in life.”
Giovagnoli’s story is a fascinating one and even his opposite number on Thursday night, Mikel Arteta, confesses he has been learning about the remarkable journey.
“I watched a long interview with him because I wanted to know who he is, what he is trying to do and what he is trying to express to his players,” he said.
“I think it’s a great story and linking different backgrounds and different countries into that history is a good one to hear. Big merit to them for the work that they are doing.”
Giovagnoli will hope the next chapter of this incredible story happens on Thursday night when his side take on Arsenal, but he is under no illusion about the challenge ahead.
“It is quite obvious that there is a heavyweight boxer against a super-lightweight so we will just have to try and make them run and uncomfortable a little bit,” he said.
“Everything in this game is obvious – the difference, the quality – so let’s make the passion something maybe bigger in our side.”
Dundalk have been defying the odds all season in Europe, though, and have beaten Andorrans Inter Club d’Escaldes, Moldovans FC Sheriff and Ki Klaksvik from the Faroe Islands to qualify for the Europa League.
But a result at Arsenal would really put Giovagnoli on the map.
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