Unai Emery not a managerial goldmine, but his tranquil assurance, innovative tactics bode well for Arsenal
Unai Emery may not come across as one of the managerial goldmines which clubs aim to hit, but his tranquil assurance bodes well for a club like Arsenal where stability and guarantee for long-term virtues takes precedence.
A hat-trick of Europa League triumphs at Sevilla, five silverwares in two seasons at unruly Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), three consecutive third-place finishes with Valencia in a La Liga duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona, yet Arsenal legend Ian Wright prompted “Where’s Unai Emery come from?” in one of the harsher reactions to the Spaniard’s appointment at the North London club.
While Wright’s reaction to the 46-year-old Basque’s appointment wasn’t in the same league as the infamous “Arsene Who?” chant from twenty-two years back, Arsenal has undoubtedly chosen another unconventional route to tread on. Foreign managerial appointments are no longer a rarity in today’s Premier League, but the European sports media was confident that Ivan Gazidis, the Chief Executive at Arsenal, was courting Manchester City’s assistant coach Mikel Arteta and not Emery.
Emery’s appointment might have come as a surprise for Premier League observers, but regular followers of La Liga would attest to his tactical ingenuity and knack for comprehensive match preparation — qualities which will find massive acceptance at a club of Arsenal’s stature.
Intelligent but not pretentious, passionate yet not flashy — Unai Emery may not come across as one of the managerial goldmines (like a certain Pep Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane) which clubs aim to hit, but his tranquil assurance bodes well for a club like Arsenal where stability and guarantee for long-term virtues takes precedence.
Emery, during his tenures at Valencia and Sevilla, was renowned for his ‘out of the box’ tactical systems which dealt his clubs good hands while going up against far more formidable oppositions, be it in Spain or in Europe. In Paris, boxed into a corner by the Qatar Sports Investments and their lavish spendings on attacking players, Emery was forced to abandon his inherent traits which made him so successful as a manager on the Mediterranean coast.
While fearlessness and hard work has always underlined Emery as a manager, his ability to come up with innovative tactical schemes at the drop of the hat will come good for Arsenal, who have often lacked a ‘Plan B’ in the recent years. Paris Saint-Germain’s capitulation in a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg has often been pegged by Emery’s critics as a proof of his inability to steer his club in pressure situations, yet it was his helplessness to motivate star footballers to work towards a common goal which blemished his reputation in France — a problem the Spaniard is unlikely to face at Arsenal.
Emery’s attention to detail and his drive to make his players work on and off the ball will resonate with Arsenal fans, who have often condemned their first team’s frequent lapses of concentration and tendency to freeze in crucial matches. Combined with his encyclopaedic approach to opponents and his own players’ strengths and weaknesses — a trait which prompted Emery’s former player Joaquin to comment “he’s obsessed by football, it’s practically an illness” — Emery can very well be the solution to Arsenal’s gripes of mid-table mediocrity.
Emery’s preferred formation of 4-2-3-1 in a counter-attacking set up will find fans in North London, especially due to the presence of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in Arsenal’s ranks — the young manager’s nuanced yet meticulous approach a pleasant surprise for Gunners fans.
Not yet fluent in English, Arsenal’s new boss still impressed the British sports media and the Gunners supporters with his enthusiasm in his first press conference. “Football is a demanding and difficult sport. What we want to do is not fear any team, either here in the Premier League or in Europe, and our objective is to be among the best and to beat the best. I’m the type of coach who has always worked really hard — not because I do it better than anyone else but because that is what I believe the most important thing is,” Emery opined.
Appointing a manager will simply not break the loop of passivity Arsenal have plunged into over the past decade, for the Gunners board must heavily invest into their backline as well as their central midfield. Emery’s presence at helm will ensure the Gunners achieve ‘more bang for their buck’ with any fresh recruits and the former Sevilla manager is exceptional with bringing in new faces into the fold.
Emery is tailor-made for Arsenal’s footballing philosophy of operating within a budget and promoting youngsters to take up influential roles within the squad, having already achieved success in guiding Sevilla to European glories and impacting careers of Adrien Rabiot and Presnel Kimpembe at Paris Saint-Germain.
Perhaps most telling about the new Arsenal manager’s persona is the fact that his zeal and passion for vivacious football does not overshadow his stoic temperament or his ethos to work hard, or as he put it, “I’ve never seen anything handed out for free in football.”
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