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The Unai Emery to Villarreal story gains momentum

The former Arsenal and PSG coach is said to be on his way to Villarreal.

Arsenal FC v Eintracht Frankfurt: Group F - UEFA Europa League Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

According to Marca, Villarreal reached an agreement ‘some time ago’ for Unai Emery to be their next manager. You can (and should) read the previous part of this story that Allen wrote up a couple days ago. Marca’s report doesn’t necessarily add much to the story, but it does state the pre-agreement with Emery as fact, and of course they are one of the larger papers in Spain. You can see below that ESPN is reporting the same.

I don’t know if they have this pre-agreement or not. I guess we’ll find out soon. If they reached a deal with Emery during the break, I certainly don’t blame them, as we had just lost to Leganes as part of a three match losing streak and before that had a run of results where the final scoreline flattered our performances. The hard facts are that we lost to all three relegated teams this season, and even in this last successful run to close the year we had multiple wins (Granada and Mallorca) where we did not play particularly well and also some bad losses (Barcelona, Real Sociedad) where we just did not put in a respectable performance. For all the things Calleja has done well, consistency has not been a virtue of his team.

I personally really like Emery as a manager. I think he’s smart, and I think he got a raw deal at both Arsenal and PSG. When consider he’s only six years older than Calleja and then you compare the two CVs, the differences are stark. But Calleja is someone who I think loves Villarreal in a way that Emery is simply unlikely to ever feel, and it feels downright contrary to club values to dismiss a man who got us to 5th place in the league.

If the pre-deal was struck, then as Allen said over the weekend it is probably financially implausible to break that deal now, and I understand that. Emery will step into a team with a large leadership vacuum after the departures of Santi and Bruno, with the club needing to make a decision on Zambo Anguissa as well. An active summer window will be required to compete on multiple fronts. Will Sr. Roig take the club into those waters post pandemic? Will a director of fooball come to the club to do for Emery what Monchi did at Sevilla?

It seems we are entering a situation where the potential highs are things we haven’t seen in nearly a decade and the potential lows are ones we’ve seen a bit more recently than that. The whole thing makes me nervous. The leadership and midfield vacuum will be just as much an issue if Calleja stays on, and can he really carve out a top three offense again with Zambo and Cazorla? I suspect he likely will not. With all the possible ways the next month and a half could go I feel like our odds of getting to the Europa League final are about the same as our odds of getting relegated, and that is scary.

We can only wait and see how it goes.