Arsenal: Determined Emery will relish opportunity to rebuild reputation
Unai Emery arrives at Arsenal on the back of a domestic treble but consecutive last-16 exits from the Champions League tarnished his reputation. James Eastham ponders his chances of gaining success in north London.
It’s too early to say exactly what Emery’s Arsenal on the pitch will look like. Observers in France remain split over whether Emery made PSG more attractive to watch or whether he was simply lucky to have a number of world-class players at his disposal in a relatively mediocre division.
A failure in France?
The decision by Arsenal to name Unai Emery as their new manager has raised plenty of eyebrows in France and the jury's out on the other side of the channel about the job Emery will do at the Emirates Stadium.
Emery was far from the market favourite for the post after two seasons at Paris St Germain in which he failed to make the positive impact he hoped to after he left Sevilla for the French capital.
Emery completed the domestic treble of Ligue 1, French Cup and League Cup in 2017-18 but PSG simply didn't get better in European competition and for that reason alone Emery's time in Paris will largely be seen as a failure by most observers.
Consecutive last-16 exits at the hands of Barcelona and Real Madrid was simply not good enough given that he was billed as one of Europe's smartest tactical thinkers when he arrived and was supposed to be an upgrade on predecessor Laurent Blanc, who reached the quarter-finals.
It was also on Emery's watch that PSG suffered a fate many believed was impossible when they relinquished their seemingly permanent hold on the Ligue 1 title.
Monaco were crowned champions in 2016-17, which constituted the worst possible way domestically for Emery's time in the French capital to kick-off.
Egos against Emery in Paris
Emery's reputation as a fine tactician was also undermined when his attempts to instigate an early fundamental change on the pitch backfired.
In his first few months in the job he introduced 4-2-3-1 tactics but the players rebelled, and Emery was reluctantly forced to accept that his players were happier operating in the 4-3-3 Blanc had used. In a clear case of player-power winning out, PSG reverted to 4-3-3 and in some ways Emery never really recovered.
If he arrives as damaged goods, however, Arsenal will arguably be the perfect environment for him to improve regain his status in the game.
One of the main problems he encountered at PSG was the alarming number of egos in the dressing-room. The issue was particularly testing for him during his second season in charge after Neymar arrived.
Emery never got to grips with the strong personalities at the Camp des Loges training ground and suffered from the fact that he was forced to accept decisions made by his superiors over treatment of the players.
Neymar, for example, has enjoyed special favours since joining PSG last August - and it was obvious from the off that those above Emery rather than the manager himself had the final say on such matters.
In such circumstances he was essentially fighting a losing battle daily, a problem that his successor Thomas Tuchel will now grapple with in the months ahead.
Arsenal a better chance for Emery to create 'his' team
At Arsenal, who are [32.0] to win next year's Premier League on the Betfair Exchange, Emery should find a set-up similar to the one that he enjoyed at Sevilla. There'll be pressure to succeed, but Emery will enjoy more respect and support from those alongside and above him than he did at PSG.
Arsenal's dressing-room doesn't have the oversized egos that Emery encountered in Paris, either. The incoming manager is likely to find his new set of players a lot more receptive to his ideas and respectful of his authority than some of his charges were in France.
This will make it easier for him to mould his team over the short- and medium-term, making it likely that Arsenal become more 'his' team than PSG ever were. Emery should also have greater input into the club's transfer policy than he did at PSG even though he's unlikely to have the final word at Arsenal.
It's too early to say exactly what Emery's Arsenal on the pitch will look like. Observers in France remain split over whether Emery made PSG more attractive to watch or whether he was simply lucky to have a number of world-class players at his disposal in a relatively mediocre division.
The line that he improved youngsters at PSG is dubious, too. Centre-back Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Adrien Rabiot made strides forward but this was the sort of linear progress that had been predicted for the highly talented duo since their teens.
Don't doubt his determination to rebuild reputation
What's not in question is that Emery will relish the opportunity to show what he can do. He'll be bruised by the hit his reputation took in France and keen to prove he belongs among Europe's elite managers.
That's not dissimilar to the situation Arsene Wenger found himself in when he arrived at Highbury in 1996. Like Emery today, Wenger had already enjoyed a degree of success at domestic and European level managing Monaco but found himself with a point to prove after a time away from the limelight at Nagoya Grampus Eight.
Emery's 46, the same age Wenger was when he took charge in north London. The parallels end there for now - but if Arsenal are looking for history to repeat itself, you can see why Emery's got the job.
Unai Emery Specials on Betfair
Arsenal to win no trophies next season 2/9
Arsenal to spend over £100 million in the next transfer window 5/6
Arsenal to finish 4th in the EPL next season 5/2
Emery to NOT be manager of Arsenal on the first day of 19/20 season 5/2
Arsenal to win the Europa League Next season 8/1
Arsenal to win the EPL next season 33/1
Emery to surpass 17 trophies with Arsenal 66/1
Arsenal to be relegated next season 100/1
Arsenal to sign Neymar this summer 100/1
Emery to manage Arsenal for 23+ years 250/1
Arsenal to rename stadium to Wenger Arena 500/1