Why Unai Emery to Arsenal is like David Moyes to Manchester United
It appears now that Unai Emery will be the next Arsenal manager. The former PSG boss is widely tipped to be Arsene Wenger’s successor with the Gunners set to make the announcement this week. But many people have begun to ask - is he the best bet?
Emery - A proven winner
Pundits are backing Emery, claiming the Spaniard has won multiple titles across different leagues in Europe.
The biggest achievement that highlights his resume is the back-to-back Europa League titles with Sevilla in 2014 and 2015. He even made Valencia give rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona a run for their money in the Spanish League, back in the late 2000s. And more recently, he guided Paris St. Germain to the French League double last season.
But let’s put things in perspective. Emery’s latest stint had a blockbuster side that featured Neymar, Mbappe, Edison Cavani, Angel Di Maria, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva (And the list continues). That’s like assembling the Avengers and still lose - anything but a first-place finish deserves a sacking.
The fact is they missed out on the Champions League. In the 2016-2017 campaign, PSG had a night to remember, thrashing Barcelona 4-0 in the 1st leg of Round of 16, when Neymar played for the Catalans, and Mbappe was on Monaco’s payslip. In the return leg though, Emery couldn’t mastermind a tactical plan to counter Barca – eventually losing 6-1 and bowing out of the Champions League.
Last season, they had a tougher challenge – against defending champions Real Madrid in the very same round. Once again, Emery failed to inspire his team as Ronaldo and co. secured a 5-2 aggregate win.
Emery might have exceeded expectations, guiding a club like Sevilla to Europa League titles. But if he gets the Arsenal job, it’s a different ball game altogether. Europa League cannot and should not be the target for a club like Arsenal.
He took a mediocre Valencia side to a third-place finish in the Spanish League, but that side had David Villa and David Silva at their peak. It can also be argued that Rafael Benitez secured the title back in 2004.
Quick results the only way
So here’s the reality. Arsenal fans are desperate – especially after a trophy-less season. Wenger’s farewell and the nostalgia that came with it could perhaps be the only high point for Gunners faithful last season.
They need results, and Emery will be under pressure right from the beginning (if he is appointed). Arsenal board, as we all know, work on a tight budget – perhaps the reason why Mikel Arteta was not given the job if reports are to be believed.
The bigger test comes when the Premier League kicks off. Here, there’s no litmus test like his PSG squad faced in the French League. In EPL, each game plan needs to be executed to perfection. Perhaps, Emery could have a chat with Pep Guardiola or Antonio Conte about that.
Earning players' trust and surviving the pressure of the job
The first hurdle Emery will have to tackle is earning the players’ trust. Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has reiterated time and again that the only reason he moved to London was the trust shown by Wenger. Can Emery regain the trust of Ozil and his fellow teammates who was signed by Wenger?
The issue is the inside story during Emery’s time at PSG. Neymar reportedly complained to the board executives about how Emery is a hard tactician, and how some of his plans don’t really work. Emery can surely stick to his ethics, but he must find a way to convince his team that the plan will play dividends.
And finally, the Premier League is all about surviving the pressure. Conte now knows the pressure of failing to defend the Premier League crown. A manager like David Moyes left West Ham United despite surviving the relegation battle. In a high-octane league like the EPL, club targets can somehow be met, but the pressure is just too hard to handle.
Arsenal, just like Manchester United back in 2013, are going to face testing times ahead. The Red Devils know what a mistake it was to appoint Moyes as Alex Ferguson’s successor. Moyes had weaved his magic with tight budget at Everton, but carrying forward Ferguson’s legacy proved to be a burden he couldn’t lift off his shoulders.
Similarly, Emery might have achievements in his resume. But taking control of a massive club like Arsenal is going to be the road less travelled for the Spaniard.