Unai Emery Compared Against 8 Key Selection Criteria: Arsenal Found a Gem

A few weeks ago, I published a post with what I regarded as the main selection criteria for a new manager:


See the source image

Unai Emery was not one of the managers directly considered back then, but here are my arguments why the man from Hondarribia in the Basque country, Spain, is a  very good option to take over from Arsene Wenger:

As per the list of selection criteria in that post, Emery should:
Share Wenger’s qualities – let’s say these are to do with personal presentation, PR, and passion for the game: Emery is reported to be a football nut who watches games all the time, he is 46 year old and already has managed a variety of clubs in Spain, Russia and France. He has great presence, a more than decent CV, gravitas and doesn’t look too shabby either. It looks like he is going places, a bit like Arsene did when he joined us 22 years ago. His English needs improving but that will come quickly. A Spanish assistant with good command of English may come in handy…. That is a ‘big yes’ from me.
Play progressive, exciting football: I have seen enough of the way Seville and PSG played their football under Emery to know he will be able to make us play good, winning football. But the first season is about getting balance in the team, make us much harder to beat and get the best out of the enormous attacking talents of Ozil, Ramsey, Mkhi, Auba, Laca, Welbz, Iwobi (and hopefully Jack). Emery is also a Cup fighter and Arsenal are a team that love good cup runs. That is a big ‘yes’ from me.
Give youth a chance: I don’t know Emery well enough to judge him on this. I would imagine he passed the test on this during his interview with Gazidis and co. That is a ‘don’t know’ from me.
Have won one or more top leagues, ideally the PL AND is likely to get us back into the top-four within one to two years: Unai won the league in France and I think he did well with Seville to finish fifth, fifth and seventh in La Liga (whilst excelling in Europe). He has no PL experience and it remains to be seen whether he can get us back into the top four and then challenge for the title again. That is a cautious ‘yes’ from me.
(ideally) Have won one or more CLs: Emery won a remarkable three UEFA Cups in a row with a ‘lesser’ team in Spain. Simply a superb achievement, indicating both a strong focus on cup  runs and playing with a system of football that conquers all. A lot is being made of losing out with PSG against Barcelona in the CL two seasons ago, after beating them 4-0 at home, but there were some bad refereeing decisions in that return game and I would actually give a lot for beating a team like Barcelona 4-0 at home. Emery embarrassed the Catalan footballing machine and not many managers can say that. That is a yes from me.

See the source image

Gain the respect of the senior players quickly: Emery comes with Gravitas, energy and tons of football knowledge. Language barriers may form a challenge but Hector and Monreal will help out (Nacho as captain would make sense). The man lives football and gives his all when coaching during games. Emery will also be relieved not to have to work with the spoiled prats at PSG anymore. At Arsenal he will be able to work with a committed group of talented players who are looking for a new beginning, vision and a system of football that gets the best out of them. That is a big yes from me.
Be tactically astute and will be able to give the team a much-needed balance between attacking and defending: Emery watches a lot of videos of his opponents and prepares games accordingly, it appears. When PSG played Arsenal at the Emirates and in gay Paris in the CL two seasons ago, they really were an impressive team from a tactical perspective, and played us of the pitch in both legs. It was a miracle that we ended up with two draws from those games (and win the group for once as a result of those draws). I reckon Emery needs to get the spine of our team right and for that he needs to both buy a quality GK, CB and another defence-oriented midfielder AND get the best out of the current crop of defenders and midfielders. He knows the Spanish and French leagues well and surely will be able to get us some quality signings for a good price. This will be a challenge for him but, to be fair, it would be a challenge for anyone taking over from Arsenal. Getting the balance right is the big priority. It is a ‘yes’ from me.
Be looking for a long-term assignment and wants to leave a new legacy: this remains to be seen. He could settle at Arsenal long-term or, if highly successful, be tempted to join RM, Barcelona, Bayern etc when they come calling. It is a ‘don’t know’ from me.

All together, I reckon we have found a gem of a manager with a mixture of passion, vision and experience who is likely to need some time to get his vision and tactics across and build a winning team. Fingers crossed it gets completed soon.

By TotalArsenal.

53 thoughts on “Unai Emery Compared Against 8 Key Selection Criteria: Arsenal Found a Gem

  • TA

    My first guess is that – unlike Wenger – Emery will try to fortify our defensive midfield position. Grzegorz Krychowiak was his choice in Sevilla AND PSG but it seems that two have fallen out of each other in Paris as Krychowiak spent last season having a mare at West Brom on loan after failing to impress in Paris (he gave away the ball at Emirates before conceding a penalty for our equalizer). Krychowiak is an experienced enforcer in the middle of the pitch but the problem with perception of him and Arsenal might be exactly the same Emery himself might have – he had looked like a perfect addition for Arsenal when he was at Sevilla.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the perennial N’Zonzi to Arsenal rumour finally come true and there is another physical midfielder that might come into frame – Geoffrey Kondogbia (at Inter, on loan at Valencia) who has once impressed at the Emirates for Monaco.

    Emery brings a new story with himself. Whether he is right choice or not – well, time will tell. I like the reports on his precision and micromanagement. He has beaten Klopp’s Liverpool in a European final after trailing their lead which is a reason for optimism.

  • I think his experience with PSG may be a blessing. He will not have a squad of primadonnas to deal with – oh i’m sure Ozil can be a diva but he is one. Auba, Mkhi, Laca, Ramsey, etc all look like they will just get on with things and not try to pull the strings.
    This could lend itself to him rebuffing the advances from the likes of BM,RM,BARCA, MU.

    If he is the messiah (not a naughty boy) then he should get himself a strong number 2 and them i think he should plan a year out every 4 years so he doesn’t burn out

  • Admir

    Yes turning round the game v Pool – from 0-1 down to 3-1 winners – in the second half was impressive. That Rabiot chap at PSG looks half decent to me too, but a quality DM so we have options would be great.

  • Double, that is what I was thinking too. Arsenal is one of the few clubs where a manager can work at the top level, or there about, without having to deal with the spoiled prats constantly. For a manager that must be pretty ideal. Disagreed re Ozil though, who I reckon is humble and cooperative at all times (and also always gives his all). It’s just (armchair) perception. 🙂

  • In some ways TA? I’m happy many of us ‘got it wrong’ — over whom, the appointment appears to be headed. Of the many candidates in your previously linked slate of candidates? There were a whole host of commendable qualities, but few, if any, with the ‘proper fit’ — for this moment, this situation.

    Emery, for me, in almost all ways exceeds the expectations I hold (held?). Though, still keeping my powder dry at present. What with more than one surprise in such a short span? If I may lift a phrase from Lennon (not Aaron, but John)– that ‘tomorrow never knows’.

    The one point I will glean straightaway from the possible appointment– which seems most necessary? Is that Emery and the three returning mainstays of the back-4 are all fluent in Spanish.
    As defending– is where Newman must start– in untying Arsenal’s most pressing Gordian Knot.


  • JW, it was very impressive that you predicted Arteta as our man many months ago. I thought you had gone bonkers. 🙂

    Good point about the Spanishness of the back-line. We just need to add in a Sol-esque Spanish speaking beast of a CB and maybe Ospina will get a second chance…

  • I’m still just about computing the news having pretty much accepted that Arteta was going to be our new manager and preparing myself for a season of grumbling ‘I told you so’s’ from our one and only Meister Total.
    As per usual the views online are as mixed as a box of mixed chocolates in a mixed chocolate shop, so I’m gonna let most of that nonsense pass me by and wait and see.
    Actions speak louder than words (not sure if John Lennon or Jack Lemmon said that) so I’m gonna see what occurs and how the team develops under the tutelage of Dick.
    Transfers are a difficult thing to judge as I cannot see Dick having a Vieira moment as it won’t be down to him, that’s Svens dept.
    Contracts will be partly in Dicks remit as he’ll let Raúl and Fahmy know who he wants to keep and who is on a slow train to Exitville.
    Where I am most enthused is by the prospects of performance change, hopefully of a positive nature, how will our defence set up, how will the midfield protect the defence, how disciplined and switched on will the players be in those departments and what will his tactical changes and substitutions look like and how they affect our play?

    Only Dick knows.

    As the man said ‘I read the news today o’ boy, about a lucky man who made the grade’….

  • Kevsky

    I would not have done ‘I told you so’s’ once the decision would have been made (well okay, occasionally but not constantly).

    Just felt this was the time to give my opinion and hope things would come good. If your toilet is leaking profusely you can go and ask the apprentice to come and fix it or get an established master-plumber to avoid disaster. Arsenal just did the latter. 🙂

    As we are quoting the master musicians of all time (give or take a few classical composers):

    “Living is easy with eyes closed
    Misunderstanding all you see
    It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out
    It doesn’t matter much to me”

  • Undoubtedly now, a litany of lyrical Stilton will be served on this thread.
    So– stating afore the aromatic wedges are served?
    These first three selections have a sublime taste. 😉



  • *sigh*
    Do you serve strawberries with Stilton Kev? 🙂
    (Knew it was just a matter of time.)


  • A video to show Emery’s tactics against Real Madrid.

    Hopefully he can further refine the Total Football.

  • You can bet that Unai is already poring through the videos. He just can’t help it but he can help us back to the glory days.

  • I had not seen your list of criteria for the new manager before, TA, and I think they were well thought out.

    There is of course a danger that in asking questions and answering them yourself, in any context, that you risk confirmation bias. But I do not think there was much of that in fairness, but if I am to be candid, I think you have been a bit generous towards Mr Emery.

    If I may explain what I mean. I suspect the choice was narrowed down to picking between Arteta and Emery; the experienced safe Emery appointment v the potentially exciting, youthful but inexperienced Arteta who clearly would be a more high risk appointment.

    So there is no real downside to the appointment of Emery, and appointing Arteta most certainly would have been risky, except that Emery is not truly a top manager comparable with Zidane, Mourhino, Allegri, Enrique or even Simeone — he is a safe appointment, — but he does not thrill me as any of the others mentioned would have done.

    Returning to my second paragraph above referring to your criteria; I think you could have been a little more circumspect viz a vis Emery by looking harder at his his record in the CL, the competition that caused so much ill feeling for AW.

    Wenger was castigated because in the last decade Arsenal could not get past the Round of 16, continually building up fans hopes, only to crash out time after time.

    So, how has Unai done in the CL, and can we expect him to help Arsenal do better? Well in the last couple of seasons PSG with some of the best players in the world he and his team were humiliated by Real and Barca in the Round of 16, just like Arsene — so you gave him a a pass with his Europa League success — but let’s be honest, we used to mock the Spuds playing in the EL every Thursday or Spursday as it became known — and that is not bad, but it is a tier below the top managers who would push Arsenal to really compete in the CL and even to win it.

    Emery is OK — but personally I am a bit tired of Arsenal going for OK players and now managers, whereas as one of the most popular clubs in the world we should go for a top tier – whatevertjhe cost — success in the top trophy would more than recoup any salary required.

  • Redders 🙂

    It is fair enough to think that Emery is OK but I could not disagree more with you. I cannot see why you would believe that the likes of Zidane, Enrique, Allegri or Simeone are that much better but maybe you can explain it to me. 🙂

    Emery had two seasons in the CL with PSG and at times they looked fabulous. Yes they went out against Barcelona and RM but played well against them in all four games. Pep has underperformed in the CL with top teams (since leaving Barca) and especially with MC (Pellegrini got furthest with MC) but as we know he is a great manager.

    Time will tell but I believe we got a gem of a manager – one that fits really well with Arsenal.

  • I am not going to hold my breath until an official announcement is made. This is Arsenal we are talking about after all, and they’ve just made the widest U-Turn on “Arteta Road” that we are likely to see this off-season. That being said, I am optimistically cautious and feel a whole lot better than a few days ago when I was desperately trying to convince myself and condition my brain to the idea of Arteta being the new man in charge. I was fully preparing for a new season being pissed off after a run of bad games or being pleasantly surprised. Pretty much like last season. I am glad I won’t have to worry too much about the unknown anymore. I hope…

    My main criteria regarding Unai Emery is can he make our leaky defense an almost impenetrable fortress? Will he demand that we FINALLY get a proper all-action DM to shield our defense? Something a lot of us have been “craving” for so long. When he sees a player being constantly outworked and outplayed during the game, will he have the guts make the necessary change in players and/or tactics, or will he wait until the 70th minute or later to make changes? I guess I am so used to Wenger doing this time and time again for so long that I have pretty much accepted as the norm at Arsenal. It will so refreshing to see a different approach to game management and I can’t wait.

    Defense – Defense – Defense must be the new theme next season. I already know we have a fearsome attack, a wonderful midfield and we can score a boatload of goals! So I am not worried about those areas.

  • Explaining an opinion is pretty pointless, TA, — opinions are not facts, they are what they are, and another person’s opinion can be equally as good — or as bad, and I have never claimed to be the Oracle as I am sure you know.

    I obviously respect your opinion that Emery is a gem — I think he is just OK, and that he does not fill me with joy – in fact I worry that his reign will be a bit same-same.

    Time will tell which one of us is correct – in the meantime (when it is announced) Unai will get my support, and despite my current opinion, I hope he turns out to be a ‘gem’ after all, I think, from memory, Gazidis had a much shorter list of criteria for any new manager, 1) Play exciting attacking football, 2) Represent the club well, and 3) Utilise and promote the young players.

    Who can argue with that? Well, there was no mention there of ‘improving the defence’ – I understand the words ‘Represent the club well’ but how does that help ‘improve the team’, and I have no idea what Emery’s history with ‘promoting youth team players’ has been — so on the face of it, it is all down to attacking football.
    [The only problem with the above is that it is relying on my possibly imperfect memory of what Gazidis actually said — so I I could be talking bollix – not for the first time, I suspect.]

    Anyway, there has been no announcement yet, and I did not intend to appear negative – the words “Ok manager” and, “I will support the new manager’ seem reasonably positive in these hypothetical circumstances. 😀

  • Let’s have a closer look at your examples of truly top managers:
    Zidane: big character but nobody knows how he would do at a ‘normal’, non-silver spoon club. Well behind the La Liga winners this season. Would be gamble.
    Mourhino: crap with youth and does not fit the club’s values
    Allegri: would have been good to see him at Arsenal. Questions re fitting with the club’s values.
    Enrique: a bit like ZZ. Would be a gamble.
    Simeone: big character and lots going for him. Questions re fitting with the club’s values.

    All have their plusses and minuses. Same goes for Emery, but I can see more plusses compared to most alternatives.

  • “Monchi, who is now at Roma, would deal with transfers, mostly bringing in young or unproven players, while Emery as a coach would make them better.
    The best job Emery did at Sevilla was to take those players Monchi was finding in the lower leagues in France or obscure leagues across Europe, improve them, make them play as a team and win trophies.”


    If that does not excite you Redders, then I don’t know what to do withya! 😀

  • We are better placed to offer opinions on players than on managers but even there we see differently. What less for the managers we are never certain how much is from them and how much from the players. We only surmise from the much we see of the teams in which case no one should ever swear on which manager is better than the other. I can only swear on Pep if he is able to take Bournmouth to the top, over and over again, on a shoe lace budget.

    But working on the much evidence available, Emery looks a good coach capable of rubbing shoulders with the best. I like the fact that he is a hardworker and very meticulous. Also the fact that he is at home in the two-tier system and hat he has operated well in both a cash strapped and a cash rich club.

    Am a believer in Arteta’s potential but maybe we are at a point in our curve where we should keep risks at a minimum. I hope the club announces Emery quickly so we can move on.

  • I’m still waiting until someone has signed. If it is Emery then I’m ok with that. He’s not the Messiah as far as I can see. But he should be safe an offer us a transition. Arteta would have been a gamble. Arguably a romantic one, but still a punt. Emery looks like someone to see us through a couple of seasons and perhaps back into the top 4. Arteta needs to go and prove his potential as a manager. And then maybe be ready to come to us with some experience under his belt in a couple of years. If not then it may be another young manager. Like Poch when he was at Southampton. The great thing about the summer break is how it always manages to recharge us with hopes for the season ahead. Confirming the manager and a signing or two and we will be on our way again.

  • Stilton is JW, one life’s great experiences, as it hits the taste buds, I do luv me Stilton.

    But not with Strawberries, perish the thought.

  • I would have liked to wait until there’s an announcement before joining the fray but, if we are being honest, Unai Emery isn’t a choice to be scoffed at given what we know he has achieved.

    From what I have read (even seen) of him, he looks the kind who can improve the players, drum positioning and team structure into them and just coach and coach the team till they become a k8nd of machine. I am persuaded that our team has better players (man for man) than Emery’s Sevilla teams did, but he was able to take them to 3 Europa league wins, while competing on the domestic front on a regular basis. He looks the studious kind and will push our boys to win games and hopefully, trophies, more consistently.

    Reference has been made to PSG’s defeat against Barcelona in the 2nd leg CL, but we’ve got to admit that but for an inexplicable capitulation towards the end, Barca was as good as knocked out, with PSG looking in control. It’s something that would haunt him and he’ll want to think he has learnt from. He ticks the boxes, based on TA’s criteria, especially the values of the club and representing us well. He will also bring on the youth into the senior side, without fear. Rabiot was an outsider in Paris till he came and gave him consistent playing time that has seen the youngster growing into a good player.

    If that’s the announcement the club makes, I feel we should just give him the chance and we may just find he makes us successful in a short time.

  • Speaking of promoting youth, just saw highlights (I am out of Nigeria at the moment or I would have seen the game live) of the exciting Friendly game between Nigeria B and Atletico Madrid, Tuesday evening and thought Kelechi Nwakali needs to be promoted to the senior team already.

    He scored Nigeria’s first goal with a curler from distance to beat the great Oblak in goal. He also ran the show in midfield for the young Nigerian side (none selected for the World Cup, by the way). Game ended 3-2 in favour of Atletico with goals from Correa, Torres and a young player whose name I forget.

  • Hmm

    I would like to respond to this (I think) common thought/thread, but expressed well here: “I am persuaded that our team has better players (man for man) than Emery’s Sevilla teams did”

    I am persuaded that man for man we are at or close to any team in the PL. I know some think OTT, but bear with me briefly (I hope). Player quality and team quality are not the same thing. Great players in the wrong system fail (see: half the world with Mourinho). Equally, average players in the right system can be well above average (see: almost every Arsenal star who left for Real Madrid et al and never was the same again).

    What we need is the right system for our players and a coach who can instill it or at least find it. Wenger’s main problem was he believed great players given freedom and some modest direction would overcome teams with lesser players. This was true, I believe, until Mourinho and tactical, not so beautiful and often disruptive football arrived, and now tactics and systems matter much much more than they did 10 years ago. And, dare I say it, great players (not the super great like Messi, Ronaldo et al) matter at least a little bit less (see: Spurs, Huddersfield, Every La Liga team who isnt Barca or RM, …)

    So, if Emery is good with systems, then we can be much much.. much better, … I believe.

    cheers “Nuh Zullend” — jgc

  • More gently and shortly… We also tend to assign “greatness” to those who succeed, without looking at the why of how they succeeded.

  • Oh and this from ESPN whilst trawling about speaks to my bias, so:

    “After two years with PSG where he was unable to truly express himself as a footballing philosopher because of an early power struggle that he lost with the key figures in the dressing room, Emery will be eager to remind everybody just how versatile he can be tactically.

    The French champions ripped Lyon apart 4-1 in their one semi-competitive outing in Emery’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation but as soon as it became obvious that his methods threatened certain established and comfortable stars, he was overruled.

    Arsenal possess fewer players of that calibre and attitude, so Emery is likely to experiment more and mix the style up a bit.”

    🙂 … cheers — jgc

  • Nice comments Eris and JGC and in support of the content of the post. Let’s get it all confirmed and then it’s exciting times ahead.

    Seveneenho, I sent you an email. Please give us a shout. 🙂

  • Hi all..
    So.. we go for Emery now.. hehehe..
    He had a great record with Sevilla..
    No need to mention PSG.. No competition there in League1.. As like Munchen in Bundesliga.. hehehe..

    So.. assuming that our team is below the big five team.. Emery will be a great coach..
    But will he just fine with 50M budget..?? After used to spare 200..?? Hehehe..

  • Will missed St. Cazorla.. He will still around if Wenger stay.. Farewell and Goodluck..

  • Hey 84

    IMO doable… saw an interesting analysis. This year’s home record was as good as any bar invincibles with same number of wins. Just behind City. BUT, we gave more goals away, but scored almost 25% more goals at home then the invincibles.

    Away however…. we scored way less and till gave up more…

    That speaks tactics, formation, flexibility, not talent… all of which Emery in theory brings. So, doable…

    Cheers — jgc

  • Great News!!!!!

    jgc really good to read your comments again and sorry you encounter the tumbleweeds when you blog on BK. Lets get behind the Emery Armoury and look forward to player announcements etc. 🙂

  • “So.. assuming that our team is below the big five team.. Emery will be a great coach..”

    Go and wash your mouth out, Horrid Henry!

  • As Arsène was for Arsenal, so shall Emery be for the EMIRATES!

    Yes, Jack. Those stats/facts should tell anyone Wenger has left a good basis for any smart coach to come in and do well, by just tweaking here and adding there…..

  • Welcome Emery.. We will support you..
    Who will follow him? Raboit.. Krychowiak.. or Draxler..??

  • Read how carefully Ivan Gazidis fitted his attributes into the criteria he had, himself, stipulated for whoever was going to replace Wenger? Kroenke also put in some nicely chosen words and threw in Arsene Wenger (as always), about making the choice.

    Let’s hope he doesn’t disappoint. Glad the wait is over.

  • Hey 84,

    Unfortunately SGP is outside my usual range. I’d have to find a conveniently placed conference! 🙂

    Cheers — jgc

  • Eris

    IMO, to their credit, they got this done pretty expeditiously. Before June and ready for summer etc is pretty good.

    My 2p — jgc

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