Can Unai Emery slay another Goliath?

Unai Emery is a Spanish manager, currently at the helm of Villarreal FC as a manager. Also, he owns Real Union, the club that plays in the third-tier league in Spain. He has been in the spotlight recently and for all the right reasons. He guided Villarreal to their first-ever European glory winning Europa League last season. Emery is currently leading the same club in the Champions League semi-finals against Liverpool this Wednesday. His side slew the giants Bayern Munich in the quarters and Juventus in the RO16 en route. Villarreal have shown that faith and a little extra dedication can go a long way. The quality that Emery possesses as a manager is undeniable. However, one still needs backing from the management to do what he can do and that he has in Villarreal.

Image source: VCG

Gain in Spain

Unai Emery came into the scenes when he guided Valencia to 3 consecutive top-three finishes from 2010 to 2012. And the fact that he was new to the managerial role in the top league makes it very impressive. Then, he moved to Spartak Moscow, where he had very little success. It was with Sevilla that he cemented his place as a top manager. He joined Sevilla at the start of 2013. He guided Sevilla to Europa League titles for 3 years in a row (2014,2015,2016). No other manager has managed to win more than twice, and he did it in 3 consecutive seasons. Sevilla owes most of their recent success to Emery. It’s with Spanish clubs that he has had the most success. He is most recognized as a manager for the success he has had with the clubs from his home country. Firstly Valencia, then Sevilla, and now he is writing another glorious chapter with the Yellow Submarine.

Emery after gutwrenching defeat against Barca Image source: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Pain outside Spain

After the tremendous success with Sevilla, Paris Saint-Germain roped in Emery in July 2016. He managed them to 7 titles in 2 years, but had little success in the Champions League. He was on the wrong side of one of the most astonishing comebacks in the CL history. FC Barcelona pulled a heist to comeback from a 4-0 loss in the first leg to win it 6-1 in the second leg to make it to the quarter-finals. The next season PSG was knocked out by the eventual champions – Real Madrid, losing both the legs. And so, he was let go the next season to be bagged by Arsenal. In his 16-month stint with Arsenal, he could do very little. In the full season at the club, Arsenal finished 5th on the table – a point away from fourth-placed Tottenham. The defeat to Frankfurt in the group stage of the Europa League and their league standing (8th at the time) was the final nail in his coffin. Arsenal fired Emery subsequently.

Image source: Villarreal FC

The King of Cups

Managing the top sides itself is an arduous job. Leading the sides like PSG and Arsenal comes with even more responsibility, expectations, and scrutiny. Very few managers meet the expectations from the very start. The team and the management need time to buy the style and vision of the manager first. And both PSG and Arsenal provided little of that. Emery believes in building a personal relationship with the players before building a professional relationship. And one can clearly see that in the way he rallies the Villarreal players. Emery went undefeated across Europa League last season to eventually lift the trophy. He has also lost just a match so far in this edition of the Champions League. Manchester United are the only team to beat them. It is a testament to how good he really is. His next opponent Jurgen Klopp didn’t label him as ‘the King of Cups’ for no reason. Emery’s men seem to do exceedingly well when everything’s on the line. He has lost only 1 out of 11 finals in his managerial career.

Image source: Getty Images

The Next Goliath

Speaking of Klopp, Emery will go against one of the best at the moment in him twice in a week’s time. Liverpool will go into the match as the favorites, just like Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals and Juventus in the RO16. Although Liverpool is in red-hot form, they cannot discount how good Villarreal has been this season. They say winning is a habit. Emery and his side are doing just that, clearing anything and everything in the way. No matter which way the tie goes in the semi-finals, it has been a mammoth effort from Emery’s Villarreal, and they deserve every bit of the claps and praise coming their way. One thing we can say with confidence is that his side won’t go down without a fight. Knock-out matches bring the best in Emery and his men and they would surely not mind knocking the Reds out. So, Liverpool better watches out because this David loves slaying the mighty Goliath.