After much deliberation and an extensive search, it seems that the Arsenal board have finally found their man to replace Arsene Wenger as the new manager of the club. The man is Unai Emery, the man most associated with making underdog teams punch above their weight. He did it with Sevilla, winning three consecutive Europa League crowns and with Valencia where under him the Los Che established themselves as the third best team in the country behind the superpowers Real Madrid and Barcelona.
He also did an admirable and almost a miraculous job at Almeria, whom he brought up to the La Liga and then finished higher up the table in the eighth spot.
But Emery’s biggest failure in his career has come when he was thrust into the limelight as the boss of French giants and one of the richest clubs in the world, Paris St. Germain. Seeing his record in European football with Sevilla, the Qatari owners believed that the Basque was the perfect man to take the Parisiens to the next level and make them true elites of European football. Success at the domestic level was a given.
But Emery staggered at the first step itself and lost out on the league title to a young, dynamic and effervescent AS Monaco side full of fervor and vigor led by Leonardo Jardim. He also had to face humiliation in the Champions League as his side faced a mental collapse of epic proportions, surrendering a 4-0 first-leg lead against Barcelona, losing 6-1 in the reverse fixture at the Camp Nou.
The humiliation led to PSG having one of the biggest summer windows of all-time and Emery was armed with two of the best attackers in the world in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to launch an all-out assault in European competition. Again though, PSG came up short in Europe against Real Madrid, though they improved by leaps and bounds domestically, clinching a treble.
So why are Arsenal going for a man who in his two years of tenure at one of the biggest clubs in the world was perceived as a failure? As big as PSG are, the spotlight will shine even brighter on Emery at Arsenal as PSG still cannot match the glamour of the Londoners as they are still considered among the elites of world football.
To put it in simple terms, Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal director would have been swayed by Emery’s work at Sevilla and Valencia. Under a constrained and restrictive budget, Emery worked wonders at the Spanish clubs and made them a force to be reckoned with.
With his discipline and tactical nous, Emery forged a highly fluid counter-attacking unit at the Seville-based club and they often came up with wonderful triumphs against much more fancied clubs.
Arsenal currently are in a similar position as they are not in the league of the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea when it comes to financial clout in the market and are much behind in terms of squad and player development when compared with Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp and Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino.
Emery will not be tasked with bringing immediate success to the Emirates stadium and will be given time to forge out his own identity at a club who after 22 years under the legendary Arsene Wenger had grown stale and stagnant.
The Arsenal players too need a kick on the backside after playing under the benevolent rule of Arsene Wenger for many years and a man obsessed with tactics and discipline should bring immediate improvement among some personnel in the Arsenal ranks, who had been afforded too much freedom.
One criticism of Unai Emery at his tenure at PSG was his alleged poor man-management skills. There were speculations that he could not handle the massive egos like Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Angel di Maria and Thiago Silva in the dressing room and they ran the asylum, where in an ideal scenario, that authority lies in the hands of a manager.
This is not a scenario though which Emery is likely to face in the Arsenal dressing room as they simply do have personalities of similar stature in the dressing room. In fact, one of the first things which Emery will be likely tasked with is to instill a bit of personality, character and fire in the bellies of some of the Arsenal players.
His record of promoting the youth is also excellent and even at a high profile club like PSG, he gave ample opportunities to young players like Adrien Rabiot, Presnel Kimpembe and Giovani Lo Celso who established themselves as vital members of the squad.
In short, despite the clamour amongst many Arsenal fans for the club to go for a bold and out-of-the-box choice like Mikel Arteta, the hiring of Unai Emery represents a safe but nonetheless astute choice as the man to lead the Gunners into the next era. After all, change is indeed good, isn’t it?