Is Unai Emery the right man for the Gunners?
So finally, the merry-go-round has stopped and Arsenal fans now know who the man is, that will replace Arsène Wenger at Arsenal. There had been a lot of names on the clubs’ candidacy list from Carlo Ancelotti, Max Allegri and Luis Enrique down to Ralph Hasenhüttl and Julian Nagelsmann and at one stage it was being reported that former players, generally thought to be lining up to take the number two position in Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and quite heavily Mikel Arteta, were being brought into the frame to take the helm at Arsenal Football Club.
But low and behold as of last week, stories began emerging firstly via Neil Fissler at The Express and then Kike Marin of El Confidencial, naming former PSG boss Unai Emery as the leading candidate for the Managerial position. And then yesterday it began to emerge that Emery was (for the second time) over in London, to discuss with the Arsenal board the finalities of completing the move to become the clubs new Manager.
Stories have changed in the last twenty-four hours as to what happened with Arteta with some stating he “withdrew” from the application due to differences between himself and the board pertaining to the amount of power he’d have over the new structure, whilst others say he was never seriously considered for the role, but had a verbal condition with Arsenal which had a few bullet points added in, including the finding of somebody with a lot more managerial experience than he.
And so there we have it, although not formally announced by Arsenal just yet, David Ornstein of the BBC broke the news that Emery would be the new man taking the reins. The offer is a two-year contract, with the option of a third included. He’ll be taking a slight pay cut compared to what he was on at PSG, earning £5m PA at Arsenal, compared to his £5.4m in France; this is also a considerable drop in wages for the Arsenal Manager generally, as Wenger was on £8.2m before stepping down. But even though the new man has now finally been named and we can all go about our summer getting excited for the World Cup and the like, there are still Gooners out there who’re bemoaning or still very unsure about, the appointment so what can we expect from the new man in charge?
Who is Unai Emery?
Unai Emery started his managerial career at the age of 32, after retiring from Football with Lorca Deportivo. At the time he had a major knee injury and was offered the vacant manager’s job by the clubs President which he took with vigour and instantly took the club to the second division for the first time in their history as well as beating Málaga in the Copa del Rey in the process.
In their first season in the second division, Emery took Lorca to a fifth placed finish, only five points away from promotion to the top flight. The season after he left, Lorca were relegated and he joined Almería in division two once again overachieving and getting them to their first ever promotion, just like he had done with Lorca. The following season he got Almería to eighth in the division and ended up replacing Ronald Koeman as manager of Valencia.
At Valencia he began with a sixth placed finish and qualification for the Europa League and despite not doing too well in European competitions in his first season he took the club to a third place domestic finish the following year therefore qualifying for the Champion’s League for the first time in two years as well as the quarter finals of the Europa League, losing to Atlético Madrid on away goals and the round of sixteen in the Copa del Rey going out on aggregate to Deportivo but it had earned him a year’s extension.
The following year, after losing both David Silva and David Villa to Manchester City and Barcelona respectively, Emery still managed to win five and draw one of his first six La Liga matches and making it all the way to the round of sixteen in the Champion’s League losing to Schalke and the same stage of the Copa del Rey, being knocked out by Villarreal.
He managed a successive third place league finish and qualified once more for the Champion’s League. Emery finished the following season with another third placed finish (all three times behind Real Madrid and Barcelona) before leaving for Russia to take control at Spartak Moscow.
The most uninspiring tenure of Unai Emery’s managerial career, came at Spartak. He was due to be the new manager on a two-year contract but only managed to last there 6 months after a poor run of results, including a huge loss to local rivals, Dynamo Moscow.
Two months later and midway through the 2012/13 Season in January, Emery was named as the manager of Sevilla replacing the sacked Michel and kept the club in a modest 9th position. In his first full season at the helm of Sevilla he took them to a top six finish in fifth and won the Europa League beating Benfica on penalties.
The following season he once again finished in fifth domestically and successfully defended the Europa League, this time beating FC Dnipro. This win made Sevilla the most successful club in the history of the Europa League and its predecessor, the UEFA Cup. Emery extended with the club amid interest from both Napoli and West Ham at the time. The following season saw Sevilla only manage seventh in La Liga, this was mainly down to Emery playing the final few games with youth and reserve players as the club had solidified their place in the Europa League final against Liverpool.
Emery tactically outplayed Jürgen Klopp and despite being 1-0 down at half time, won the game and the Europa League 3-1. Despite winning the Europa League for a third successive season and getting Sevilla into the Champion’s League once more, Unai Emery decided to leave the club at the end of the season and join PSG.
Upon joining PSG, his first match was against Lyon in the Trophée des Champions which his side won 4-1. He finished second in his Champion’s League group, ironically behind Arsenal. They battered Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of the knockouts, but unfortunately were highly embarrassed in Spain 1-6 and therefore being knocked out of the competition.
He finished second behind Monaco domestically in his first season and led his club to a Ligue 1 title in the second, winning a domestic treble in his first year (Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, Trophée des Champions) as well as a domestic treble in his second year (Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue) but due to player power conflicts and lack of European success Emery decided to call it a day at PSG on April 28th, 2018.
Unai Emery has never had a win percentage at any club he’s been in charge of, lower than 46% with an overall average of 53.5% He has won 10 trophies in the last five seasons with 7 of those coming in the last two at Sevilla and PSG.
Playing Style: A lot of people will be basing their knowledge of Unai Emery on his game style whilst managing PSG and that for me, is a mistake as they most certainly wouldn’t be fully au courant about the approach he’s more inclined towards. At PSG the hierarchy really impressed upon him the use of the 4-3-3 system; however, Emery prefers the 4-2-3-1 method with a very counteractive and pressing stance. He is methodical and meticulous in his work in the dressing room as much as on the pitch as well.
Emery is willing to cut his cloth accordingly where his personnel are concerned and will find a way to adapt with the players he has rather than just dumping some, without losing focus on the structure he’s coming in with. Something many wished Wenger would do when coaching his squad, is adapting his technique and structure to the current opposition at the time and this is something that Unai Emery does with great precision whilst mapping out his plan however one thing he may have to work hard on is the adaptation throughout the match when the opponent’s flow changes direction he must formulate to accommodate in such a circumstance.
Emery’s overall style of football is fluid, one-touch from defence to offence style gameplay. He doesn’t like his players to hold onto the ball too long (could be an issue for Wilshere should he stay?) and prepares to play some beautiful pin-ball wizard.
Management Style: Arsène Wenger was affectionately known as “Le Professeur”, well Unai Emery also dons that moniker but in another form, almost quite literally. The coach likes to run through extremely, detailed and thorough video analysis with his players and doesn’t leave one avenue untouched and has been likened to a “tactical forensic [mad] scientist”. One story that has recently done the rounds regarding Emery is that he likes to give his players USB sticks filled with selected tactical clips and once suspected an unnamed player of never bothering to watch them. So one day he gave this player a blank USB stick and the following day in training, in front of everybody he asked him what he thought of the clips.
Emery is a very strict but fair and yet demanding coach. Once again people paying attention to his PSG time only, will be mistaken for thinking his man-management is weak. PSG is one of those clubs where there aren’t only one or two egos but almost the entire squad is and they have a direct line to the man upstairs if the smallest thing upsets them. With all that in mind it’s little surprise that Emery never managed to really nail down and solidify his authority in that dressing room and as somebody had said recently, if Arsenal were getting Emery straight from Sevilla, without him having made the poisoned (albeit successful) run at PSG first, there would be no-one worrying or concerned for Arsenal, under him.
Conclusion: Overall I believe this is going to be a very well laid out marriage between club and manager. Emery is experienced enough at working within a structure and budget and is an extremely successful coach both domestically and in Europa, where Arsenal are currently with the obvious target right now to getting the club back into the Champion’s League.
The players he has at his disposal currently are players he has chased whilst at PSG (Özil, Aubameyang and Lacazette) and during his interview the Spanish tactician made it clear to the Arsenal board that Aaron Ramsey was a player that was “central to the plans” he has, once he begins his placement as the man in the Arsenal hot-seat. I for one am extremely excited about the coming season and the future of Arsenal Football Club and I honestly believe all Gooners should be!