Can Unai Emery Find Success at Arsenal?

Unai Emery
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 16: Head coach Unai Emery during a Paris Saint-Germain training session at Parc des Princes on May 16, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Replacing a club legend is not easy, just ask David Moyes. However, former Paris Saint-Germain boss Unai Emery will attempt to follow Arsène Wenger‘s tenure with a successful one of his own. Such a feat will be difficult, but the new Arsenal manager will surely relish the challenge.

Will Unai Emery be a Success at Arsenal?

Serial Overachiever

While Unai Emery’s playing career was cut short thanks to a knee injury, he found success as a manager almost right away.

His first appointment came with former club Lorca Deportivo in Spain’s third division. He led them to their first-ever promotion to the second division before joining Almería. Emery again made history by earning promotion to La Liga for the first time in club history.

Valencia took notice of young Unai Emery’s success with smaller clubs, offering him the vacant manager’s position in 2008. While los Che were always considered Spain’s third team, at the time the club struggled mightily with debt.

In fact, during Emery’s first season in Valencia the club could not afford to pay their players for a time. Despite this period of uncertainty, Emery still led them to sixth in the league. Three consecutive third-place finishes in La Liga followed, even though Valencia still struggled with debt.

An ill-fated sojourn to the Russian league with Spartak Moscow followed. This is the only appointment in which Unai Emery did not find success, losing the job in just six months.

A return to Spain materialized for the manager shortly after getting the sack in Moscow, this time with Sevilla. He spent three and a half seasons with the club, marking what may be the most successful part of his career.

Sevilla won the Europa League three times consecutively, registering two fifth-place La Liga finishes to boot. He also took the club to the 2016 Copa del Rey final.

Emery’s last appointment came in 2016 with French giants PSG. While in France, the manager won the league once and added four domestic cups. However, he could not find European success as the Parisians crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 twice consecutively.

A Frugal Man

While Unai Emery is joining from one of the world’s richest clubs, his frugality is quite admirable. He has a history of winning with a very limited budget.

For example, Valencia had to sell many of their stars during Emery’s tenure in order to pay off debts. David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata all left los Che during this time, but that didn’t stop them from retaking their place as Spain’s third-best club.

Sevilla are not strangers from selling their stars, either. During Unai Emery’s reign, the club sold Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Ivan Rakitic. However, the Spanish manager brought in the likes of Kevin Gameiro and Ever Banega to repair the squad, and still won three straight Europa Leagues.

Arsenal are no longer a club crippled by stadium debt. However, that doesn’t mean the Gunners can go out and spend the same money on players as PSG. In fact, there are numerous reports claiming that Arsenal have just £50 million to spend on transfers this summer before player sales.

Same as Wenger before him, Unai Emery will have a relatively tiny war chest compared to his division rivals, but with the expectation to perform. The Spaniard’s past proves that he can find success in such conditions.

Manager of Egos

Unai Emery has a way of getting the best out of his players, no matter how large their ego.

For example, just this past season he dealt with a row between his star players in Paris. Edison Cavani was the designated penalty taker at the Parc des Princes, but that didn’t stop Neymar from demanding that he take a spot-kick back in September.

While the general public will never know exactly how the boss handled the situation behind closed doors, the fact is that the Brazilian striker apologised to his teammates very soon after.

The fact is that Neymar is not a humble man, so anyone who can inspire him to be a good teammate is truly gifted.

Then again, consider his time at Valencia. The club, at the time, held debts in the region of €400 million and didn’t have the funds to pay their players for a time in the 2008-2009 season. In spite of this fact, Unai Emery still salvaged a sixth-place finish in the table, resulting in Europa League qualification.

The Spanish manager got the best out of his players at a time when they did not receive their wages. Anyone who can achieve such a feat is a born leader and a terrific manager.

The Verdict

The appointment of Unai Emery will likely not please every fan. However, that does not mean this is a bad hire. Emery is exactly the manager which this Arsenal team needs.

He has experience managing clubs with little to no transfer budget, as well as getting the absolute most out of his squad. That latter trait may pay great dividends for Arsenal.

After all, Unai Emery kept the Valencia players on the pitch at a time when they did not receive a weekly paycheque. Then, at Sevilla, he kept them challenging near the top of the table despite losing key players.

For an Arsenal squad which is mired in mediocrity, this ability to inspire is priceless. On first glance, the Arsenal hierarchy may have bagged their man. While only time will tell, Unai Emery has every chance to find success in north London.

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