By Julien Pretot and Coran Elliott
PARIS (Reuters) – With Arsenal playing in the Europa League next season, they may find former Paris St Germain and Sevilla boss Unai Emery is the perfect fit to replace the departing Arsene Wenger as manager.
The 46-year-old Basque, who is set to join Arsenal later this week according to British media reports, clinched three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla from 2014-16.
Yet, after moving to PSG, his success on the European stage dried up as he tried to replicate his Sevilla heroics in the Champions League.
Emery, whose contract with PSG was not renewed at the end of this season, failed to take the Ligue 1 side past the last 16 in his two years in France despite the club spending vast amounts of money on developing a squad capable of challenging Europe’s elite.
Off the pitch, Emery was a gentle character who made an effort to speak French in his early days at PSG. On the touchline, however, he was an altogether different person.
In Spain, his constant gesturing on the sidelines earned him the nickname ‘guardia urbano’ (traffic warden) and he was even once sent off during an exhibition game in his honour.
Emery is a workaholic who spends hours studying videos of opponents.
Former Spain winger Joaquin, who played under the Basque coach at Valencia, once described him as being so obsessed with football “it’s practically an illness”.
“He’s one of the best managers I’ve had. I worked with him for three years. I couldn’t handle a fourth,” Joaquin said.
“Emery put on so many videos I ran out of Popcorn!”
Emery spent the majority of his own playing career in the Spanish Segunda Division, before making the transition to management following a knee injury.
His appointment at Lorca saw the Spanish side achieve promotion to the second division in 2005 before he moved to Almeria and led them into La Liga.
During Emery’s time at Valencia from 2008-12, they achieved three successive top-three finishes before a brief spell at Spartak Moscow brought an end to Emery’s run of success.
While his return to Spain with Sevilla delivered a remarkable trio of Europa League titles, his time at PSG will be remembered as one of missed opportunities despite their continued domestic dominance.
In France, Emery failed to get a grip of a star-studded dressing room and could not stamp his authority on the squad.
In two seasons in the French capital, he won two French Cups, two League Cups and a Ligue 1 title, but that could not hide the fact that he had been appointed to deliver success in the Champions League.
Emery will be remembered as the man who led PSG to a resounding 4-0 win against Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League last year.
Yet more significantly as the coach who could not prevent his team from melting down in the return leg in a 6-1 defeat at the Nou Camp.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)