Unai Emery has been announced as the new Arsenal manager. The three time Europa League winner with Sevilla has signed with Arsenal Football Club after his contract at Paris Saint-Germain ended. After 22 years, the Gunners have a new manager but is it the same story all over again?
Let’s start with the positives. Emery is a proven winner. His 3 Europa League titles (two consecutive wins) were arguably his greatest achievement as a manager. His ability to nurture and improve players is uncanny and is tactically astute. So why might he not be the best fit for Arsenal right now?
The biggest factor going against Unai Emery is his man management ability. His time at Paris Saint-Germain was embroiled with controversy when the likes of Neymar and Edinson Cavani were acting like petulant children. The penalty debacle against Dijon in January 2018 showcased this; where Cavani had the opportunity to become PSG’s leading goal scorer overtaking Zlatan Ibrahimovic but it was taken away by Neymar’s persistence in wanting to take the penalty even though they were already 7-0 up!
That wasn’t the first time we’ve seen an Emery managed team show signs of discontent. He isn’t a calm, collected figure on the touch but rather a buzzing, energetic and jittery individual which transmits it on to his players. It’s no coincidence that this effect follows wherever he goes, dating back to his managerial days at Valencia and Spartak Moscow. Even with the successes that came with managing Valencia by keeping them relevant amongst the Spanish elite, his teams still showed no restraint or control. In the 2015/16 season, his Sevilla team went an entire season without an away win, recording 9 draws and 10 defeats. For a team as fragile as Arsenal is right now, this doesn’t bode well.
‘Brave & Bold’
Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s CEO, promised a ‘bold’ and ‘brave’ decision when searching for Arsene Wenger’s successor and Mikel Arteta represented just that. Arteta is an inexperienced manager but what he lacks in managerial experience he gains in an understanding of the legacy and heritage of the club and is currently under the tutelage of arguably the world’s best manager at Manchester City: Pep Guardiola.
Arsenal’s biggest criticism has always been their lack of leaders since the Viera, Petit, Bergkamp and Henry generation left. The current squad cannot cope with going behind, the lack of leadership both on and off the field has been worrying for many years now. Any player that displayed an ounce of leadership or passion eventually left the club because Arsenal have bottled many an occasion; Alexis Sanchez, Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas have all moved on to bigger and better opportunities. Nasri, Fabregas and Robin Van Persie have won the premier league (the former two on multiple occasions). Jose Mourinho infamously branded Arsene Wenger as a ‘specialist in failure’ – which epitomized Arsenal’s last decade.
The jury is still out on Unai Emery’s appointment and he could yet be a resounding success for the Gunners. His handling and faith shown in promoting Giovani Los Celso and Presnel Kimpembe during his time at Paris Saint-Germain gives the youth players at Arsenal hope (Konstantinos Mavropanos will be salivating at the thought!). Both players received international call ups for Argentina and France. Arguably his best work came in improving David Silva and Juan Mata who have both gone on to win the Premier League and Champions League respectively at Manchester City and Chelsea has shown Emery’s incredible ability to nurture talent.