In this series of articles I have been looking at some of the favourites to be the next head coach of Arsenal, looking into the tactics and players they may fit into side should they join.
In this final part we look at a late entry to the list Unai Emery, the Spaniard who is expected to join Arsenal imminently. Emery recently left Paris Saint Germain after winning the league and cup double in the country with them.
First of all context is needed about his departure from Paris, every coach that takes the job is given a poison chalice, you get all the money in the world to spend, a team full of stars but there are a lot of problems with that.
Firstly anything less than winning all the domestic titles and the Champions League is seen as failure, yet more then half of the teams they face in the league are nowhere near their standard, so when they face a Real Madrid, it’s hard to be ready for such high level competition.
Secondly the team is built on PSG buying who the owners see as the best players who can take their brand to the next level, although it has some fine defenders and midfielders, you have to say in this model it will always be a top heavy team. In conclusion Emery did everything he was asked to do apart from win the Champions League which is the same as many of those that came before him.
With all that said to understand Emery as a top coach you need to look at his time before he was at Paris, his stints at Valencia and importantly Sevilla.
As a Valencia fan myself Unai Emery was the best coach they have had since Rafa Benitez, Valencia are a car crash of a club that eats lesser managers for breakfast.
In his first season with Valencia, Emery led them to a sixth place-finish,thus qualifying for the UEFA Europa League, in spite of the club’s serious financial problems.
Following that he steered Valencia to qualify for the Champions League in 3rd place in La Liga 3 years in a row, which is no mean feat with all the talent in Spain. His last season could be seen as his biggest achievement as he had just lost David Silva to Man City and David Villa to Barcelona as well as key figure Ruben Baraja retiring yet still Emery managed to get Valencia into 3rd .
Following a forgettable time in Russia with Spartak Moscow, Emery turned his attention to making Sevilla a European juggernaut. Although not having the big money as other big team around Europe, Sevilla never dropped out of the top 7 and importantly won the Europa League 3 years running from 13-14 to 15/16 seasons. It became almost an inevitably they would win every year.
Tactically Unai Emery has almost always preferred a 4 2 3 1 formation which came to a culmination in the Europa League final of 15/16 versus Liverpool as they won by 3 goals to 1. In a spectacle including a nice goal by Daniel Sturridge, Sevilla soaked up pressure in the first half to then decimate Liverpool in the second half, they out Liverpool’d… Liverpool !
As you see in the picture, he has rampaging full backs that like to support the attack, they go out wide to provide width, letting the wingers go inside to create an overload in the final third.
Centrally he has a playmaker that orchestrates play, he is the heartbeat of the team, he starts high up although he puts in a lots of miles going up and down the field, picking up the ball to play it to the best available choice. This play maker in the centre is so important to Emery almost half of his attack goes through him in that hole role.
Defensively the full backs, the wingers and even the playmaker all sit back to create a line of 4 and a line of 5, the striker is left to wait for the out ball to counter attack. Some could almost label this tactic Simeone lite, due to it not quite always being successful or wise and inviting trouble.
This also happened at PSG just look at the collapse at Camp Nou when they let Barca back into the tie despite beating them 4 – 0 at home. Hopefully the stubborn Emery will learn from all these constant criticisms levelled at him.
As you can see in his tactics at PSG he was almost told he had to use 4 3 3 instead of his beloved 4 2 3 1, he got round this by having his two number 8s take turns drifting into the playmaker role in the centre of the final third or drifting back into the holding role next to Tiago Motta.
One of the most outstanding things that sticks out about Unai Emery are the reports of his near perfectionist eye for detail, he creates videos of the opposition and what each player should do, he then gives each player a USB stick so they know exactly what he wants them to do. Can you imagine Arsenal players when presented with USB sticks and this extent of eye for detail it could be like another planet compared to the loose methods of Arsene Wenger.
As for possible signings, it’s expected Sokratis will join very soon to sure up the defence, a move I am very excited for, he is viewed as one of the best in his position the Germany. Another player also likely to join is Bernd Leno, probably to take over from Ospina in the short term although make no bones about it, it’s taking Petr Cech’s place, regardless of what his number is. In midfield it’s a possibility Emery and the recruitment team might try bring his former PSG player Adrien Rabiot to Arsenal, he’s facing a crossroads currently and the French club are looking for players they can sell to balance the books. Finally there are whispers and links possibly due to Sven Mislintat and the other Dortmund connections in the team, that Ousmane Dembele could join Arsenal, which not only provide Emery with a winger he desperately needs but also a player who is one of the most talented of his generation.
I got into football as a kid watching Italian football in the afternoons and ever since I’ve been hooked on tactics and the continental side of the game. I’ve written about Italian football in the past among other things but now it’s time to write about, the embodiment of how I see the beautiful game, Arsenal. Hopefully writing things and opinions about the game you haven’t seen before, I like a bit of a joke too.