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