Emery from Missing Panini Sticker to Arsenal Coach

Most football fans have similar debates every summer. They discuss about the potential new signings for their clubs, whether they are good or not – for which there is never an immediate answer. Only time will prove them right or wrong. Well, this was something completely unknown to Arsenal fans, at least for what concerns their manager.

Those Gunners fans who were born after 1996 have known only one manager in charge: For them, Arsène Wenger was like the cannon in the crest. He had always been there.

When a few weeks ago the Frenchman announced that he was leaving the club of his life, many hearts were broken. He only received words of gratitude, not only from Arsenal fans, but from every single person who loves football.

Arsène Wenger, “Mr. Arsenal,” decided to leave the London club after 22 seasons, leaving a big hole in his supporters’ hearts, as well as into the Gunners org chart… (Photo: AFP)

Wenger initiated a massive change that transformed English football in the last decades. He decided to put the direct and more physical football style practiced in the Island aside, focusing more on keeping the ball possession, and developing a more esthetical game. He was a pioneer in changing football players behavior not only on the pitch, but even outside of it. He controlled their diet, hired a nutritionist, checked on their sleeping hours.

The result wasn’t the most important thing for the Frenchman, as he believed that by practicing good football, results would eventually come. That is exactly what happened when, in the 2003-04 season, Arsenal became The invincibles. The Gunners won the Premier League showing some exquisite football, thanks to players like Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera, Dennis Bergkamp, and did not experience a single loss throughout the whole season.

During Wenger’s 22 years in London, the club had many up and downs, but in my opinion football and the Premier League should be thankful to him for this legacy.

The football-dom has been discussing since April about who would be the right replacement for Arsène Wenger. Many were the candidates that media talked about: Mikel Arteta, Patrick Vieira himself, Luis Enrique…But in the end, the chosen one was Unai Emery, a choice that sparked many controversies among fans.

A few years ago, a journalist asked current Valencia coach Marcelino García his opinion about the rumors of him becoming the new Real Madrid manager. His reply was: “There are only two ways to become a manager for one of the biggest European clubs: Either you were previously an important player for that club – like José Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane – or you won multiple titles as a coach in a minor team, like José Mourinho.

While this theory may be valid in 99% of the cases, the Basque Emery is one of the few exceptions.

The first time I heard his name was in 1995, when I was a ten-year-old boy, and the last football sticker missing in my Panini Album was Real Sociedad player Unai Emery. It was a very difficult sticker to get. It took me a few months, and much money to complete my collection for the 1995-96 season.

Unai Emery’s Panini sticker was a much-desired trophy to collect among young Spanish football fans in the 1995-96 season…Same as Paolo Poggi and Sergio Volpi in Italy (but that is a different story…)

Next time I heard that name was twelve years later, when in 2007 Emery led small Andalusian club Almería to their first promotion ever to Primera División, finishing the following season with an impressive 8th position.

After such a great performance, he was offered to become Valencia´s manager. He trained Los Murciélagos for four seasons, playing regularly in the Champions League, but never winning any title. After a very short period coaching in Moscow, he arrived in Sevilla, where he managed to win a record of three consecutive Europa League – yet still failing to achieve any significant result in Champions League.

In 2016, he was appointed manager for Paris Saint Germain. The French Club was growing extremely quickly since rich Qatari Nasser Al-Khelaifi became their chairman, injecting a massive amount of money into the club. Emery tried to stay in control and maintain his style, but soon realized that managing a team full of stars was a completely different story for him.

Emery’s experience as coach of PSG ended ingloriously after two seasons, with the club on the receiving end of one of the most sensational comebacks in football history (Photo: Getty Images) 

His career got marked by Barcelona’s incredible comeback at the Camp Nou, when PSG was defeated 6-1 in a Champions League Round of 16 second leg, after winning the first one 4-0. PSG’s Champions League performances in both seasons of Emery´s tenure were extremely disappointing. Therefore, the Qatari chairman decided that it was time to move on.

Two days ago, Arsenal announced Unai Emery as their new manager. Some were happy with the decision, others were very disappointed. A big debate arose on social media. But in my opinion, this is going to be the first time we will be able to see the real character of the Basque man. Only time will tell us whether this was the right or wrong decision.

Buena suerte Unai!

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