Opinion: Villarreal’s Unai Emery could be the perfect manager for Newcastle United despite failure at Arsenal

Almost every top level manager has, at one time or another, been linked with Newcastle United since the Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of the club was completed in early October. From Steven Gerrard to Erik Ten Hag and everyone else in between, the Magpies have seemingly weighed up a number of different options to replace Steve Bruce.

Now, though, it appears Newcastle have finally settled on Unai Emery as their first pick with reports stating the former Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla boss might even be installed in time to take his new team for Saturday’s Premier League fixture away to Brighton.

For Newcastle United fans who’d hoped the new wealth at St James’ Park would help them attract one of the best managers in the game, Emery’s appointment might be somewhat underwhelming. Indeed, it seems unlikely that the Spaniard will ever lead a club to the Premier League title or Champions League glory.

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Emery set for Newcastle job this week – reports


However, those who only remember Emery for his relatively short and ill-fated time at Arsenal are ignorant of all that the 49-year-old has achieved in the game. He might not be on the same level as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel or even Antonio Conte, whose arrival at Tottenham Hotspur this week has caused waves, but Emery could be the perfect manager for Newcastle at this specific moment.

While Newcastle are plotting their way to the Premier League title in five to 10 years’ time, as new director Amanda Stavely has publicly stated, they must first avoid relegation from the division. The Magpies are currently slumped second bottom of the Premier League without a single win from their first 10 fixtures. The outlook is bleak despite the newfound riches.

St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United.

Image credit: Getty Images

Emery stands as good a chance of halting that slide towards the Championship as anyone with the Spaniard renowned for being a good organiser. Newcastle have the individual talent to stay in the Premier League and Emery will give them a structure to make better use of that talent.

Of course, someone like Sam Allardyce could have done this, but Emery still sets up his teams to play with the ball at their feet. He looks for structure not only to strengthen at the back, but to allow control of possession. Newcastle United with Emery in charge won’t play a long-ball game like they would have with Allardyce, or another of the Premier League’s relegation fire-fighters.

In their current situation, with relegation from the Premier League a genuine possibility, Newcastle United were always going to struggle to hire one of the very best, but in Emery they have a new manager with a strong track record of success in some of Europe’s best leagues and competitions.

Famously, no manager has won the Europa League as many times as Emery (four) with the 49-year-old also a Ligue 1 title winner. He also got his hands on three different cups six times during his spell as PSG manager and remains the most successful coach in the Parc des Princes club’s recent history. Mauricio Pochettino certainly wishes he had Emery’s record.

Unai Emery and Villarreal celebrate winning the Europa League.

Image credit: Getty Images

As a cup specialist, there is further logic to Newcastle United hiring Emery given that the Magpies will initially target glory in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup. This is where they can make real progress quickest – see how Manchester City won the FA Cup before they were ever within touching distance of the Premier League title.

What’s more, Emery’s record at Arsenal doesn’t look so bad given what has followed since – Emery finished fifth in his only full season at the club while Mikel Arteta could only manage an eighth-place finish last season. By numerous measures, Emery was harshly treated at the Emirates Stadium.

Newcastle United is a club with great potential and even greater ambitions now that Mike Ashley is gone. However, the process won’t be an easy one and Emery appears qualified to get things started. He might end up being Newcastle’s Mark Hughes, but that’s what they need right now.


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