If Paris Saint-Germain is the frying pan, then Unai Emery is now very much into the fire at Arsenal.
It will take a special kind of coach to follow on from Arsene Wenger, which raises the question; is Emery really that special?
The experience Emery possesses is seen as a significant/contributing factor. At 46-years-old, relatively young in the management game, Emery has some stories to tell – and winners medals to show.
Following his overachievement at Lorca and Almeria, he somehow managed to keep the chaos-entrenched Valencia among Spain’s top three teams.
Things did not pan out well at Spartak Moscow, where he bombed, and badly. At Sevilla however he restored his reputation, winning the Europa League on three occasions. Opinions differ, but many attribute that success to the work of famed sporting director, Monchi. Emery was impressive however, having managed a group that changed significantly each year in terms of personnel, but still giving them an identity and focus.
Then, at PSG, came Emery’s moment in the spotlight. A club desperate to sit at the big table and be taken seriously. In part, similar to Emery’s own ambitions, he had taken Sevilla so far, and needed that step up. Seven trophies in two years followed at PSG, but even with that, people wanted more convincing.
The infamous Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona, when PSG suffered a 6-1 defeat on aggregate despite leading the first leg 4-0, was something all too familiar for Emery. The ability to suddenly collapse and fold, even though it appears he’s holding the stronger hand. See also, his very poor history when his various teams have been up against ten men.
Maybe it’s his nature of overthinking. Emery rarely appears collected or calm. He’s a hive of activity, buzzing on the touchline. That inevitably feeds through to players and can have disastrous effects. It is no coincidence this follows him everywhere he goes; from Valencia to Spartak, even at Sevilla despite his success. Yes, the trophies came, but this is a man that did not win a single away game in a whole season, drawing nine times and losing ten.
Off he went to PSG though, with the remit of progressing them beyond perennial last 16 and quarter-final exits. Emery, with the European success at Sevilla on his CV, was seen as the ideal man. Ultimately however he failed to take PSG forward and despite heavy investment the club appear to be in no better position than when Laurent Blanc was in charge. Emery even managed to loosen the grip of PSG’s dominance in France as Monaco strolled to a Ligue 1 title.
When murmurs of discontent emerged at PSG, with players seemingly free to do whatever they wanted and a certain group in control of the dressing room, it reeked of previous Emery stints elsewhere dating back to Valencia.
Being an authoritative, strong figure isn’t what he’s made of.
The hope from Arsenal’s point-of-view is evidently that Emery is the perfect company man to toe the line, and be a front for this new network the club has behind the scenes. Emery worked best when with Monchi and must now do similar with the likes of Sven Mislintat. He will ask few questions and aim to construct a team with what he’s handed.
Emery’s appointment is by no means a bad one, it’s just underwhelming. Mikel Arteta’s arrival seemed a given, and with it there was the unknown factor. An excitement and intrigue. Arsenal though, who had become stale and nauseatingly predictable under Wenger, have opted for another coach that offers few surprises.
Players will need to be invested deeply in his philosophy for there to be any success, becoming accustomed to Emery’s detailed, meticulous approach. They can expect heavy video sessions at Colney – with plenty of homework too. For some who believed training had become diluted under Wenger, it could have the desired effect and highlight where their game is going wrong. Others may not respond well to it and will simply be itching for their iPhones.
The legendary Joaquin once gave his take after working with Emery. “He’s obsessed by football, it’s practically an illness. He’s one of the best managers I’ve had. I worked with him for three years … I couldn’t handle a fourth.”
Known as the speediest talker in Spain, Emery is intense but insightful, energetic but engaging. He lives for the game, and while it must be a nightmare for anyone living with him, he could talk into the night about football. Systems, strategies, philosophies. Whatever it may be, as long as it’s football. Arsenal players must be willing to listen, and learn.
Talking a good game is one thing – walking it is another. For better or worse, Emery’s next steps will be into the Emirates.[tps_header][/tps_header]