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Reviewing Unai Emery’s Career

Is the former Arsenal and PSG manager a good fit for Villarreal?

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

There are generally two schools of thought on Unai Emery as a manager. He’s either the genius who won three straight Europa League titles with Sevilla or he’s the guy who ‘failed’ at PSG and Arsenal. To what degree are these generalizations accurate, and is Emery the manager Villarreal need right now? We inspect his career, stop by stop.


When a serious knee injury ended Emery’s playing career (he was a left mid), he was offered the manager job at the club he was playing for, Lorca. Lorca was only founded in 2002, and they’ve only been to Segunda once, when Emery took them there. They’ve also only been to the round of 16 in the Copa Del Rey once, again during Emery’s tenure. They came within five points of the top flight before Emery left. The club only survived about ten years total but the best time in their history was with Unai in charge.


After leaving Lorca, he went to Almeria. Founded in 1989, by the 2000s they had never been to Primera- until Emery showed up. Not only did he get them promoted but he also took them to 8th place in the top flight in 2007-2008 and Alvaro Negredo was his leading scorer.


At this point in his career, Unai Emery entered a different level of club arriving at Valencia. When he showed up Valencia was in serious financial straits and nevertheless, Unai got them to the Europa League round of 32 and quarter-finals of the Copa. The next season he finished third, qualifying for the Champions League, and lost in the UCL quarters.

This Valencia team was of course very talented, but a part of the story that many fans skip over is that after finishing third he lost but David Villa and David Silva in the transfer market, and still finished third in La Liga.

It’s worth noting that a lot of Valencia fans hate Emery for celebrating victories over them years later while with Sevilla. Having a manager they hate is appealing to me.


Emery had a very short spell in Russia and if you want to paint a negative narrative over Emery’s career it starts here. Things just never worked right for him at Spartak and Russia is a better league than most people realize (7th in UEFA coefficients the year Emery was there, after England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugual, and France).

Unai is, by reputation, not much of a linguist and I think there are fair questions as to whether he can really excel outside of Spain (not that it matters for his coming to Villarreal)


We already know. Three Europa League titles in a row, league finishes of 5th, 5th, and 7th. The question that you have to ask yourself is how much of his success there is down to Emery, and how much is down to legendary Director of Football Monchi?


Only one manager has failed to win Ligue 1 with PSG since Qatar oil money took over. Unai. Many use this as a stick to beat him with but if we go back and look at that Monaco roster I think that’s incredibly unfair. Monaco was probably a top three team in Europe in 2016-2017. Mbappe, Bernardo, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, Benjamin Mendy, Falcao, Joao Moutinho... there was talent everwhere. They put up 95 points.


Before you consider his Arsenal tenure, ask yourself a question: What managers could actually have made Arsenal fans happy in the wake of Arsene Wenger? Can you think of a more complicated emotional relationship between fanbase and manager than Wenger and Arsenal? It was an awful position to try to walk into.

Emery got back to the Europa League Final with them, and won 55% of his matches. If you’re speaking with an Arsenal fan that hates Emery, try thinking about winning 55% of your matches and hating the manager. (Calleja last year won 48%)

Big Picture

Overall, Emery has won more nearly 60% of the games he has managed since 2013. He’s won over half the games he’s managed in his entire career. He has managed three different teams in Primera and has never finished lower than 8th, and hasn’t finished that low since 2008. At Villarreal, we aren’t going to attract Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp. Can you show me a manager with a significantly better track record than Emery that would actually come to this club?

I think Villarreal has really put itself out there with this hire. It has shown ambition, and I think that we have much more potential upside than we would have had if we stayed with Calleja. Given a little time to shape the roster to his image and ideas, I think this could be the man who gets Villarreal its first major trophy.