Arsenal fans weren’t exactly heartbroken to see Unai Emery step down as the club’s manager in November 2019. The Gunners struggled to find a clear identity under the Spaniard and results were generally underwhelming. The decision to sack Emery was justified by the success Arsenal enjoyed under Mikel Arteta this season.
Emery, however, never offered a true reflection of himself at Emirates Stadium. He was never allowed. The 50-year-old had to deal with the emotional baggage of the late Arsene Wenger era and it weighed heavily on him. Arsenal fans never understood what kind of manager he was.
Aston Villa should have a better idea of what Emery will bring as their new manager with the Spaniard appointed as a replacement for Steven Gerrard earlier this week. Since leaving Arsenal three years ago, Emery has built up his reputation by enjoying success at Villarreal, winning the Europa League with the club in 2021 before reaching the Champions League semi-finals in 2022.
As a strategist, Emery is known for his ability to organize a compact and spirited team. That’s how Villarreal played under his management. It was this solid foundation that allowed them to reach the final four of the Champions League last season on a much smaller budget than the elite opponents they faced.
Gerrard tried to form a compact team during his time at Aston Villa, but failed in this goal. However, that’s why Emery will be equipped to succeed at his new club – Gerrard has left behind a squad that should be suitable for the former Arsenal manager Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla.
It’s not that Emery doesn’t like offensive football, it’s that his teams show intelligence in when and how to attack. Villa fans should see how Villarreal defeated Bayern Munich so effectively in moments of rapid transition in last season’s Champions League quarter-finals – this is the sort of thing they can expect from their new manager.
“Here I felt something of the heart again, but the profession is within me,” Emery said when asked why he left Villarreal for Aston Villa midway through the season. “This one, I considered that I had to face it, as a sporting challenge, as a different project. It is a personal and professional decision. I left home at the age of 24 and opened myself up to the professional world of football with all the consequences.”
Emery certainly has a point to prove in the PremierPINC League, and he puts it that way. English football fans have never seen the 50-year-old at his best as a manager. Emery has proven himself to be an elite coach elsewhere in Europe and now he has a second chance to reach that level in the strongest league in the world.