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By Tony Attwood
In May 2018 Unai Emery arrived at Arsenal as the club’s new manager. He had been manager at Sevilla between 2013 and 2016 and Paris Saint Germain from 2016 to 2018. He won the Europa League three times at Sevilla, and the French League and French equivalent of the FA Cup and League Cup in his two years in France. As we’ll all remember he was unceremoniously removed from Arsenal at the end of November 2019 with Arsenal eighth in the league, having finished fifth in his one complete season at the club.
In terms of transfers he is probably mostly remembered for spending €80.00m on Nicolas Pépé in August 2019, and that was the start of his downfall. But… and here you might be drawing in a breath because that “but” possibly indicates that I am going to start arguing in favour of Emery… And yes to an extent I am, because although he spent €80.00m on Nicolas Pépé he also spent €30.00m on William Saliba, €27.00m on Kieran Tierney and €7.10m on Gabriel Martinelli.
Transfermarkt now puts a value of €65m on Saliba, €25.00m on Tierney, and €80.00m on Martinelli
So let’s do the adding up. He spent €144m on four players who are all still with the club. Their value (using the same source for their value now as for reporting how much Arsenal paid at the time) is thought to be €188m. Here are the details…
|Players||Club||Transfer sum||Value now|
|Nicolas Pépé||LOSC Lille||€80.00m||€18.00m|
Of course he will always be remembered for Pépé because the media and some fans love to focus on the bad decisions not the good ones. That of course comes from the fact that the media employ ex-footballers who don’t have the ability to be managers as their correspondents, and they are usually talking with the benefit of hindsight (and some annoyance that no one will give them a managerial or coaching job).
But those figures show that Emery wasn’t that bad a manager in terms of transfers, and doesn’t really deserve to be remembered solely for Pépé. And indeed we have to remember that Martinelli went training with the Manchester United training school several times, and yet they never picked up on him, so, we are told, his dad brought him to Arsenal’s attention. Emery virtually bit Martinelli’s Dad’s hand off.
Unai Emery is now manager of Aston Villa of course, wherein he has a win record of 55.56%. That’s slightly better than he had with Arsenal (55.13%).
So how does this correspond with Mikel Arteta? Over 180 competitive games with Arsenal he has a win percentage of 57.2%. Which compares with Arsene Wenger who oversaw 1235 competitive games and got a win percentage of 57.25%
So yes, Arteta has a better record at Arsenal. But Unai Emery did take Aston Villa to seventh in the league last season and so into the Europa Conference – their best since 2009/10, the season in which they came sixth for the third consecutive year. Since then they have spent three years in the championship, finally coming back through the play offs but each time finishing until last season, in the lower half of the league.
So yes, some people may remember Unai Emery as a failure, the man who bought in Pépé for a ludicrous sum, and the man with poor English. When he was sacked on 29 November 2019 the league table read…
Arsenal were 8th – the position the club finished in at the end of 2019/20, and indeed the position the club finished in, in 2020/21. Here’s how it went
Of course, I am not trying to argue that somehow Emery was a better manager than Arteta and that we should have kept him. The big problem Emery had was that he had not grasped just how much influence referees have on a game, and how the game in the Premier League has to be played according to the referees’ demands.
That is why the final column above is there: to show the number of yellow cards. Arteta knew that Manchester City were able to keep using the same players effectively because fewer Manchester City players got close to bans through multiple cards, than Arsenal. So Arteta taught the defence to defend without tackling, and it was that PGMO thing that Emery seemingly never fully grasped. It will be interesting to see how many yellows Villa get this season. And how much their squad is valued at by the end of the season.
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