Unai Emery said little of interest when at Arsenal but since being sacked he hasn’t shut up and now features on the front page of France Football with a lengthy 6-page interview inside.
On Monday, quotes started to appear from Unai Emery’s France Football interview in which he blamed just about everything at Arsenal except himself.
“Arsenal was a club on the downward slope for the past two years when I arrived,” he started. It didn’t really get any better after that. Naming five captains and then complaining about losing four of them, he found all manner of things to moan about before claiming he improved Arsenal when we all know that is most certainly not the case.
Emery met with France Football at a restaurant for an interview that ran to approximately 3,000 words (all of which are crudely translated below). The Arsenal stuff comes towards the end, but it’s worth reading through the rest of the article to get a real sense of how Emery justifies his failures rather than trying to learn from them. It’s as obvious as using Silentbet to find the best odds.
The overriding theme throughout is his willingness to blame players for his inability to use them effectively, especially Thiago Silva at PSG, in a similar way he criticised Mesut Ozil at Arsenal…all with a large dose of referee bitterness.
From FC Sevilla in PSG, you just have to adjust things. Why?
By definition, when you change club, you must “learn” a new environment. When, in addition, you are to change the country, one must integrate a Championship that is different, a different language, a different culture. Go from Seville to Paris, it was climbing up a floor, if not more. Because, in Paris, I learned at a higher level what was the requirement to win necessarily. But what I also learned is that everything can change over the simple details. A purpose that is, or that it does not, an arbitrary award against you or in your favour. According to this, in these kind of clubs, where the result is of the highest priority, you will have succeeded or failed.
Precisely, do you consider have been successful or failed in Paris?
I won the Championship, four national Cups and two Trophées des champions. But the ultimate goal, it was the Champions League.
The first year (2017), in quarter-finals against Barcelona, we made a game go from very high level (4-0, February 14). And in return, we were eliminated because the VAR did not exist yet (1-6, 8 march). It has been clearly disposed of by arbitration decisions. The second year, against Real Madrid, we bowed to a team (1-3, 1-2), who signs a historic triple (three champions League in a row, 2016, 2017 and 2018), and yet, at the away game, we could also find fault with the arbitration. Balance sheet: we have lost the first time on arbitral (refereeing) decisions and the second against the defending champions and coming (champions).
At the end of the second season, when we met with president Nasser Al-khelaïfi, we shook hands and said goodbye naturally, without bitterness, noting that we had two opportunities, but that it had not been possible.
Because everything is played on details. And you want to know?
Last year, when Paris was eliminated by Manchester United (2-0, 1-3), I sent a message to Nasser: “Against Barça, the VAR would have enabled us to qualify. And this time, against Manchester, the VAR has been eliminated.”
The details, always. This is football, and I accept it. Sometimes, I have gained through these details or facts from the game, and other times, like in Paris, I’ve lost on these details. I understand that it assesses the work on this, I know the rule. Sometimes, you win over the course of the game thanks to a game or a detail. Does it means that you’ve done a better job than the coach face to face? But I know that the foot of very high-level judge solely on that. If you win, you’re a winner. But when you lose, you’re not a loser, simply, you’ve lost an opportunity.
To Paris, you were to come with ideas to change the game PSG played: 4-2-3-1 instead of the 4-3-3, more speed than possession, etc. Why haven’t you managed to impose your philosophy?
I wanted a 4-2-3-1 because it was the best system for (Javier) Pastore, but the wounds were mixed. In addition, it was a system where I could still have him (Blaise) Matuidi, but by putting him to the left. There has been much comment about this choice, but I observe that he has been world champion in this position, and that at Juve, he is also used as well.
As for the style in general, I believe that at some moments, I managed to pass the game that you wanted, as in the first Trophée des champions against Lyon (4-1, August 6, 2016), in the final of the League Cup in 2017 against Monaco (4-1, 1 April), against Bayern in the group stage in the second year (30, 2nd day, September 27, 2017) and, of course, during the eighth to go up against Barcelona, that is the game that best illustrates the mentality and the game that I wanted for Paris. But it is true that I have not been able to impose it on all the time.
Because I had to deal with the characteristics of the players. For example, I loved Thiago Motta but he was slowing down the game. It was made for a possession game. As I wanted to work with him, I had to adapt and return to a little more possession. That said, the second year it was better, we played faster more often, especially with the arrival of (Kylian) Mbappé. And if you look carefully, against Real, we pushed them and we had opportunities to take the advantage. But the defeat and then the injury of Neymar took a blow to the morale of the group.
It is also a meeting marked by a selection box: move Thiago Silva.
I wanted the team to defend higher up. Thiago Silva is a super player but I wanted it to be over the top and I was not been able to get him to accept it. I wanted it to kind of his comfort zone, he dares to defend higher up to the general pressure of the team on the opponent is more effective. I worked with him to make him accept this but I have not succeeded. And this feature of the game Thiago Silva reflected on the whole team who, under pressure, had a natural tendency to pull back. As at Camp Nou, the previous season.
However, I gave the deposit back. Butthat has not been heard…
Is it true that you have offered a book on leadership to Thiago Silva?
I like to offer books to my players about the mind, how to overcome. But for this specific case, I told him that I had it in Spanish and have refereed him to find it in Portuguese if it interested him.
More generally, I talked a lot with Thiago Silva because he was the captain. Our relationship had started. But, the more time that passed, the less trust is present.
Especially when I opted for (Presnel) Kimpembe in Madrid. It has not rained on Thiago Silva, but a coach must make decisions he deems best for the team. Especially as I had all the support of the president in my choices. And me, I had the experience of Barcelona: on the go without Thiago Silva and with Kimpembe, we had been more aggressive, whereas at the back with Thiago and without Kimpembe, it was too far back. It would have been easier for me to put the usual team and let them play. But no, me, I wanted to do what was best for the team, not for my comfort.
Why, then, have play Thiago Silva at the back ? Under pressure from the club ? The locker room ? Of the press ?
No, no, no pressure at the club or from the players. I said to Thiago: “You’re a good player, you have to take your share of responsibility.” Because it was another match, another context, too with the return of Thiago Motta and the absence of Neymar. I had asked them to get into it, it packed the party, we put the personality, and it was part of the choice of Thiago Silva. I had said to him: “you also must help us. Show us!”
Well, at the end of ten minutes, I understood that he would not.
In Seville, you were the boss, the players obeyed without flinching at your instructions, while in Paris, you needed to adapt to the players. Is this the major difference between a good club and a great club ?
It depends on what time and with who. For example, Matuidi didn’t want to play on the left but he did. And, if one makes the balance sheet with me, Meunier has worked well, Kurzawa also, Areola has consolidated Kimpembe asserted, Marquinhos also, Rabiot and Verratti have been performing, Cavani’s first season has been sensational.
Maybe Di Maria was not good all the time, but he was alright overall. With some players like Thiago Silva, I missed a small trick to bring them to their culmination. But what was missing above all, it is a qualification in the quarters so that everyone is satisfied. If we go Barcelona, I am convinced that behind, we can bring together that much better. And when we see what it held… The famous details.
Rafael Benitez explained a few years ago in FF as a coach, as good as it is, cannot impose its ideas into a great club that if management is fully behind him. Do you agree with him ?
I always felt supported by president Nasser. For example, when we were on the verge of signing Neymar, it was up to me to explain in person to “Ney” were we going to make the team around him. With a player as phenomenal, you can not say that there was already a team and he will have to adapt. You have to make the team for him. Otherwise, he doesn’t come, that’s for sure. The president and the executive speak contracts. But it is the coach who must convince him of the project of game.
For a coach like you who advocates for the collective effort, to incorporate a individuality as Neymar in your project, is it really that simple ?
A coach is always happy and lucky when he can count on a player as much outside the norm. But it is all a process that you must take the time to do it well. Neymar discovered a new country, a new Championship, a new language, a new culture, as he also had to manage his family life with his son. So, I started with him a patient integration and the most comfortable fit possible. This process has continued with Thomas Tuchel, and one sees that it really is now that he gives full measure.
Contrary to what some people think, Neymar is easy to coach. He loves playing football and he has a good heart. It was just I had to tell him sometimes not in the beginning.
No to what?
To things… (Smile.) He was not very happy. Then I said to him: “Ney, you’ve gotta get used to this that sometimes people will say no.” And he ended by accepting it. But, once again, he had to adapt to many things. To the comments about him, for example.
In Brazil and Spain, we understood and we loved his style while dribbling and provocative. In France, there have been some misunderstandings sometimes, he is accused of midget then it is his game that is like this.
Neymar takes shots each game, but it is what it is critical to have dribbled. It had to seem to him unfair. I built the team for him to make the difference. It also, it takes time because, sometimes, Ney was going to take the ball near its core. I told him: “Neymar, we have good players, don’t worry, they will bring you the ball in the best area for that, you might make the difference.”
This is the process that is in the process of really succeeding this time. I’ll tell you: if he is happy in Paris, if he gives the penalty, if the people understand it and support it, he can be the best player in the world at PSG. But, at the highest level, it comes down to the details and opportunities. Me too, in Paris, I could become the best trainer in the world. I missed this opportunity.
Neymar still has the opportunity to become the number 1. After that, it will be Mbappé.
Precisely, what did you think of the output surging of Mbappé against Montpellier, ten days ago?
It is a story of ego. Kylian, I know him, he is a good guy. But he is ambitious. However, the ego emerges and he displays publicly against the coach, this is not good for his image and this means that he does not control his emotions. But, in substance, this means that this is a player who wants more, that he is a winner. I would still prefer a disgruntled player against me because he doesn’t play, because it means that it is a competitor.
And Thomas Tuchel, how do you feel about his work?
He also has a very good opportunity to strike a blow. The players are in a good moment, Neymar is a season of very high quality. So, I really think that Paris can win the champions League this season. I said to Nasser, with whom I kept very good relations, as well as with the emir. The Qatariens have bet on Paris, they really put the maximum in this project and France should really be grateful of this total investment on their part. Because they will not let go until they have not earned, I can tell you. Myself, I am very grateful to have chosen me, it was a huge chance. And I am a much better coach after having led the PSG.
When one speaks of you, it often emphasises your large work force, your deep knowledge of the game, but it is also at times a certain restlessness. Are you aware of this ?
I have heard these comments, of course. But I have known a lot of success with my personality in Spain, and even in Paris, where he has mostly missed out on the champions League, and I reminded under what conditions. This is the result that will give the interpretation to an attitude. If a coach wins by being calm, we will say that it is thanks to his calm. If he loses, we can say that he has been too passive. Conversely, if a coach wins, gesticulating like it may be my case, we can say that he has transmitted his energy to the players. But if he loses, we can say that he shows them of the anxiety. Me, I shake and I talk a lot because I like to be in contact mentally with the players, this is how I am and what I believe to be the most effective. I don’t think I lack self control. I had to be deported three times in over fifteen years of career. More importantly, I always knew how to win and lose. After the 6-1 to Barcelona, I have not lost control. The same after the Real. Each time, I kept the cape and we had a good finish to the season, whereas after the Real, I knew it was the end of my experience at PSG.
How do you explain your failure at Arsenal?
Arsenal was a club on the downward slope for the past two years when I arrived. We halted this decline and even started to straighten out the club with a final of Europa League (1-4 Chelsea (2019), and a fifth place in the Championship, to only one place behind Tottenham then that we have not taken a point on the last five days.
We had the qualification for the Champions League in their hands, and it turned bad on the final. But it was a good season and we had the idea to continue this progression. But we lost our four captains: (Laurent) Koscielny, (Petr) Cech, (Aaron) Ramsey and (Nacho) Monreal. These are personalities that we have missed this season in order to keep a cap.
And some stars have not had the right attitude and demanded more than they gave. Given all that, it would have taken more time to make the transition to the new Arsenal that I wanted. For example, Nicolas Pépé, that was a choice the club has clearly needed time to adapt. But I accept the rule and I would be badly placed to criticise because I have also benefited from this ruling in the past.
In Paris, you say that he has missed out on a few details to seize the opportunities that would have changed everything. At Arsenal, the same. At the time of the balance sheet, what is your part in these failures ?
(Long silence.) In Paris, the first season, I think it would have been much better with (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, who came from Manchester United. And the second one, we made a good year and there is the injury of Neymar. That is what I would have been able to improve? Convince even more players in the direction I wanted to take. That, yes, it is true.
At Arsenal, there was a process in the works this season, which has taken more time than expected with the departure of our leaders and the individual performances below. I have of course my share of the responsibility, but we see that the team does not turn necessarily better since my departure.
So you have tested the foods in English, after having thoroughly mastered the art of cooking Spanish and experienced in French cuisine. So what will be the next cuisine that you’ll taste ?
I was in a meeting with coaches, including Mauricio Pocchettino. And we wondered : “So, you think cause where now?” And we had the same response : “When they want me !” (Laughter.) This can be in France, England, Italy or Spain. In Germany, this would be more difficult. Because of the language but also of the football, which is a good football but a bit far from me. I don’t forbid anything.”
The overriding sense from all this is that Emery is quite able to blame external factors and players while minimising the one common denominator – himself. To say that Arsenal are not better since he left is simply laughable. To treat Mesut Ozil like crap and then complain about his attitude, to et Aaron Ramsey leave when the player wanted to stay, to blame Cech retiring when we all knew that would happen.
These are all signs of a man who, rather than handing books on self-improvement to others, should perhaps start reading them himself.