Unai Emery is a talented coach and manager. He has a very specific vision of what he wants to do on the pitch with his players. At Arsenal he will probably want to do exactly what he did at Sevilla during the years when he won the Europa League three times in a row.
He was unable to do so at Paris Saint-Germain because of the egos in the dressing room. He was being eaten by the players, and he didn’t have the personality to be the leader of the dressing room.
He wanted to apply his vision on the pitch – high pressing without the ball, fast and direct offensive play, and to maintain possession of the ball. He wanted to bring intensity both when the players defend and attack. This is exactly what the Parisien players did not want to do. They preferred Laurent Blanc’s approach, and to play at their own rhythm.
Emery joining Arsenal could be a very good thing for the players, but only if he can succeed in changing the mentality of certain members of the team. If he wishes to install a pressing game, he must convince the Arsenal players to make the requisite effort off the ball.
For me, the main mission for him is to resolve the team’s defensive problems, individually and as a unit. It will be interesting to see if he can do with this group what he couldn’t do at PSG. There was more quality and personality in the PSG side, so it may be easier for him to make inroads with the personnel at Arsenal.
The players must believe in him and follow his instructions. But I’m not sure that will happen. Arsenal have had so many problems defensively, and for such a long time – even Arsène Wenger said so in an interview in France two weeks ago. If Emery can solve this problem, it will be a huge step for the Arsenal players – but they must buy into the intensity required.
Some of those players don’t seem concerned about what happens when they don’t have the ball. They don’t put in the effort, and leave defending to defenders – but defending properly needs the whole team to work. It will be a very difficult season once again if Emery can’t make them do so.
All about the money
When I hear about the amount of money he has to spend, I can’t believe it. Where are you going with £60 million? You’re going nowhere.
With that amount of money, you can put the best manager in the world on the sideline and the team won’t change much. There is quality at the club, but not to match the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool. They need to bring in top quality players.
I want to say to the board: can you just stop bringing in young players for one year? We’ve had enough of young players. The club is full of them. It’s been like this for 15 years now, we need something else.
We need talented experienced players. We need big characters and big personalities. This is what has been missing.
For me, £60 million is ridiculous.
Emery’s attention to detail
Video work is the way football is now. If you look at Guardiola, Klopp, Zidane – they’re all doing it. They want to bring as much detail as they can in order to avoid mistakes. When Emery first came to England to meet the directors and shareholders, he brought that detail with him. He already knew everything about each player. He is a hard worker. He’s passionate about football. You can see that when he’s on the bench.
I hope that he can make himself the main personality in the dressing room at the Emirates. It was impossible for him to do that at PSG with players like Neymar and the other big egos – you can’t change this type of person. I’m quite curious to see whether Ozil, for example, can be persuaded to press the opponents off the ball. I want to see that.
When the Arsenal players meet him for the first time they will be surprised. They will see a young and talented manager, but his desire, passion, commitment and professionalism may surprise them. He loves the game so much that he reminds me of Arsène. He eats and sleeps football – he doesn’t have a life, he’s like Wenger was at the beginning of his career.
Having watched him over the past two years in France, you could see he was frustrated. it was obvious he was alone at the club. The President didn’t protect him and Emery had to front up alone to criticism. The players spoke out against him. I pitied him sometimes – he never got the chance to do what he wanted.
There were too many divas in the PSG dressing room. Some at Arsenal can be the same, but I hope they give him the chance.
I want to see the same passion and desire that Liverpool show, which is what Emery’s Sevilla used to produce. I want to see Arsenal express themselves, no matter the opponent or the tactical system. Quick passing, quick movement, then pressure straight away when you lose the ball. I desperately want to see that type of play back at Arsenal.