Unai Emery has spoken to Spanish newspaper El Mundo ahead of Wednesday night’s Europa League final. He talks about the game, his first season in England, his outlook and much more.
We’ve translated it all for you below. Enjoy.
You seem changed?
I would say less pressured, nothing more.
Here they make things easier for me. The Arsenal is a very big club, but at the same time very close and affectionate. Everyone is willing to help. Respect is the first word you feel.
Did you not feel it before?
I’ll give you an example. When I arrived in Paris, I tried to speak French and the answer, sarcastically, was that I did not speak it well. In London I use very basic English and everyone smiles at me and they thank me for trying.
Neither in Spain?
Since I started at Lorca, where I went from being a player to a coach, I had the feeling of winning to survive, to avoid being dismissed. Clubs have two doors, the one in front and the one in the back, and you struggle to get out by the first one. Almería, Valencia … everywhere I worked with the stress of winning to avoid dismissal, not to grow over time. When I arrived in Paris, things did not go well at the beginning and I told Al-Khelafi. He told me not to worry, it was a long-term project, two years. We won a league and two cups, but they wanted me to do something great in the Champions League.
We came back to the same thing. We were eliminated by Barcelona and Aytekin [the referee] the first season, and Madrid to the next. With VAR, today, Barcelona would not have passed and Madrid would have canceled the first goal at the Bernabéu. Curiously, it is the VAR that separates PSG this season against Manchester United. We discussed it with Al-Khelaifi when we saw each other recently. At Arsenal, I have the feeling, for the first time, of winning to build, not to survive. I feel the respect towards me even when we lose, but I want to ensure that the defeats hurt more, because it is a step to improve competitively. I want the mourning to lose be greater than two hours.
Arsenal needs titles.
I did not promise titles, I promised to compete. What Wenger did in this club was very big. He managed to give a touch of quality to make the game more fluid and colourful, but little by little he lost the competitive gene. That is what was transmitted to me and what I was hired for when I interviewed Raúl Sanllehí and the owners. The economic potential of United, City or Liverpool is greater than ours, but by history and structure, Arsenal is among the top 10 clubs in Europe, and we have to place it there again.
This final is the first step?
Not only for the title, but for the possibility of returning to the Champions League. We know Chelsea well, a team with quality and a high physical level.
Do you have the antidote to stop Hazard?
Hazard is a player of moments, but decisive moments. It is what we have to avoid. Chelsea is capable of winning thanks to them, and that ability I have only seen in Messi, Cristiano, Neymar or Salah. For me, he is in the quintet of the best in the world. City, for example, has won its second Premier, but it has done more from the collective. It is a more choral team, like Tottenham, despite the contribution of Harry Kane and Son.
Four English teams in the European finals and no Spanish. How the times change!
There are explanations. The Premier League is the strongest at the level of income and that has a direct impact on hiring. You will tell me that neither Messi, nor Christian, nor Neymar, whom I consider the best three, play in England, which is true, but if we go to the second line of quality, most are here. In addition, the Premier League is more versatile in its models, with some of the most competitive coaches in Europe, such as Guardiola, Klopp, Pochettino or before Mourinho. For years, the priority was to win the Premier League, with the continental tournaments in the background. That has changed. Now they look more to Europe, success in those tournaments is becoming more desirable.
We already know what nationalism is. Crises give wings. I am Basque, I know what I am talking about, and I am comfortable as Basque and Spanish. When there are problems, people tend to be rooted, to defend the inside. Personally, I think we have to open borders, not close them, and when you go outside, you have to make an effort to enter into another culture.
What would be those explanations in football?
In English football today, you generate what you generate, with or without the ball, you have to do it in high intensity. You can not play in another way: either you are intense or you die. The gain of individual duels is a priority for most coaches, is very present in the work. Big Data is helping us to achieve it. Does that mean it’s not a technical football? Absolutely. It means that technical quality is not enough, given the physical level that rivals impose on you, especially away from home. You have to match it to hold yourself and then have quality to impose on a regular basis.
In France, for example, it was not necessary, because there were few real important matches and we played the season at specific moments. That is the barrier that we had to break and I could not because of the circumstances we have talked about before. Your ability to succeed or not was concentrated in moments. That reminded me of Sevilla, where the president told me that for the fans the important thing was to reach the end, because they were unique moments. The regularity went to the background. In the Premier League you are bound to be regular. Spanish football dominated the world thanks to quality, which is what prevails. It also has all the technology we have in the Premier, but its intensity and speed are lower. It is what European performance this season points out.
Actually, it is one of the exponents of that domain, Guardiola, who commands in the Premier.
Pep has made a mix. He has sacred principles, which are not touched, but these are only 50%. The other 50% is made up of the scenario and the variables. City has scored goals with long kicks from his goalkeeper, something unthinkable in his club, and his counter attacking is dizzying. One of the things that he said as soon as he arrived was that he had to be strong in both areas and for that you have to be physical. Look at many of his big signings: Stones, Walker, Mendy, Laporte … What are they? Defenders.
Is Guardiola’s work in the Premier really so referential?
Yes, but Pep is unique. We all look at what he does and how he does it, even if we are not able to repeat it. However, there are very diverse success models, even antagonistic, such as Guardiola and Simeone. There are those who do not talk to the players and others who do not stop doing it. I like to know what others do, how they train and how they relate, and I take what I think of each one, be it Guardiola or Mourinho.
Guardiola wins the Premier, you reach the final of the Europa League and Pochettino, trained as a coach in Spain, will play the final of the Champions League.Spain has a very high level of technicians.
Apart from training, we have learned from each other. Portugal has a spectacular school and, since their league is less competitive, they have come out more, something that has competitively matured them. In France they leave less and in England a young generation is beginning to stand out, that works well and is influenced by the work of which we have brought. One of them is Gareth Southgate, the England national team manager.
Among those models you cite, how would you catalog it?
They have told me everything, above all, defensive. I respond, as I said, that I am competitive, and that is what I intend to transfer to my team. At Arsenal we want to raise the physical level little by little, without the rest deteriorating. But one of its main arguments is the speed developed by Aubameyang. He is a player of spaces, who seeks to exploit the area behind defences, and who also has the gift of goal. It gives us that explosion, which is basic to our game. The match in the Mestalla, in the semifinal round, is a good example, because it was Valencia who had to carry the weight of the match and that was going to grant us safe spaces.
Is that your game?
It depends. I want us to be a chameleon team, able to play in possession, in static attack against close opponents, or to counterattack. For the first, Ozil suits very well, he has the virtue of discovering spaces. For the second, Aubameyang. To the extent that we are able to combine it, we will grow.
Who will you need more in the final against Chelsea?
Both. Finals usually demand more than one match [tactical approach].
Do the three Europa League titles won with Sevilla give you advantages?
The experience of having been in that situation, but it is only one more variable.
And how much does a elimination like the one you suffered count, with a 6-1, at the Camp Nou?
I always say that all experiences enrich, not only positive ones. After the defeat, I had to rebuild my personal puzzle, because there are always pieces that you can not control. Some things were my fault and others of the referee. VAR, as I said, would have given us the qualification. I am absolutely in favour of its implementation, because it offers more justice to football, but I believe that its interpretation must be improved.
Sometimes there has to be a goal like that of Mbia in Mestalla [he qualified Sevilla for the 2014 Europa League final with a 94th minute goal] to break a barrier, the same as happened with Bakero’s in Kaiserslautern, without the which Barcelona would not have won the first European Cup, or that of Lucas Moura in Amsterdam. Sometimes they are in your favour, as in the case of Mbia, and sometimes against, as in Sergi Roberto’s at Camp Nou. It’s football, my profession.
It is not due to football that you lose Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but because of his fear as an Armenian to go to Azerbaijan, due to the latent conflict of Nagorno Karabakh.
Neither the citizens of Armenia feel safe in Azerbaijan, nor those of Azerbaijan in Armenia. As much as they have guaranteed security, he does not feel that way. That UEFA decided to choose Baku and that detail escaped them was a mistake, but the problem is not really of UEFA, but of politics. We return, as I have said, to the question of nationalism. In the Basque Country we had a very difficult political climate. I feel Basque and Spanish, and I have not had problems in that aspect, but you have to make an effort to integrate.
Now I do it in England as another Spaniard.
You’ve got to love Emery’s genuine, non-PC way of talking, which is in complete contrast to the monotonous mumble that we hear from players post match. Straight up saying that the French did not appreciate his efforts to learn the language, and straight up saying Wenger lost the ‘winning gene’, and straight up saying that he lost a match to the referee, not caring about the consequences. I’m so not used to this coming from anyone representing Arsenal
I wish we could sign Rabiot, Thomas Partey and Neres. Sell Mustafi and buy a consistent defender anyone who is consistent since we can’t afford a Van Dijk, Keep Bielik, Holding has proven he has what it takes, not so sure about Chambers then a left back.
Not even remotely related to the first comment? ?
You say “Keep Bielik but not sure about Chambers” The latter just won player of the season at a club two tiers higher than Bielik?
Yes, but he won it playing midfield no? Bielik and Chambers should both be given their chance.
Although Wenger did lose the winning gene, he shouldn’t have said it. In four of our last five games against weak teams in the league, de showed no winning gene. That being said, I am ready to celebrate our first continental trophey in more than 20 years.
This argument’s a bit petty. If Emery wants to criticise Wenger, he has every right to as the successor dealing with the structure and squad Wenger left behind.
As it happens, Emery has always been pretty respectful of Wenger. Here he’s just telling us what the club told him (the next line is “That is what was transmitted to me and what I was hired for”).
Some of you need to be less sensitive when it comes to assessing Wenger’s time at Arsenal.
Don’t forget you’re reading a translation and the way it comes across may be different to how it was actually articulated at the time. However, perhaps what Arsene lost was the ability to understand how important winning was…he was never really under pressure until last year.
I think Emery didn’t say that he already achieved what he wanted, making this team more competitive.
Emery seems like a decent bloke, but I miss the old boss for his erudition and charisma.
I’m not really reassured by these comments that Emery has a clear plan for Arsenal going forward.
But lets hope he finds the right solution and intensity (as he’s well capable of doing) to fuck Chelski on Wednesday night and earn himself a decent summer!
quite a few quotes comparable to Wenger and this is my favorite “Crises give wings”.
So does Red Bull but it doesn’t mean I want to drink it.
Exactly what I was thinking. Emery seems like a very different person in his mother tongue. More direct, a bit cynical, and VERY insightful. Hope with time, he’ll become more capable of using these qualities for the team (including being cynical against the big teams). Sometimes I feel his basic English prevents him from opening up with more authority. But like the wonderful English people, I give him full credit for his effort!
My feelings exactly @The_Kolkata_Gooner.
No it’s against the small teams he needs to be more cynical.
Yeah I wish there were more deep interviews in Spanish with Unai. It would be easier to get more of his real thoughts about the situation.
Also in the Game of Football “you are intense or you die” Enery 2019
“I want us to be a chameleon team…” 🙂
Very smart guy. That part where he talks about learning from other managers but only taking the good bits from Pep, Klopp and not bothering with the shit from Mourinho!
As a side note, anybody by chance read that Gazidis speech just after Milan misses out on the top 4 by a few minutes? Heh.
I felt sorry for those Milan fans. Not for their loss but six years from now they will be finding out that their man can talk.
He turned us into a bayern Munich ( of the Europa league)
He’s always talked a good game…….
I like his straight talking but less keen on “I didn’t promise titles I promised to compete”
Would you prefer that he makes promises that he can’t keep?
‘Competing’ is what we were apparently doing al those years we clung to fourth
Scraping for 4th was not competing.
Even when we finished 2nd to Leicester we weren’t competing.
Nah table position-wise maybe, but we kept losing from top6 teams, without offering much of a resistance. The only team, we look okay against was Conte’s Chelsea and not always. So ever since 2008/09 season, in EPL at least, we never were really competitive.
I don’t understand why people are downvoting you.
Unai does not inspire hope in me at all. Can a person actually look at him and his former teams and think yes, this guy can win us the title over Guardiola and Klopp
How many people would you look at and say: “this guy can win us the title over Guardiola and Klopp”, especially with our current squad? Genuine question.
Current squad? Anyone can win the league with City level investment. The whole point was to get a manager who can win the title with less investment.
Such managers would include Simione, Ranieri, Allegri. Or unknown commodities.
Emery just strikes me as a mid-table manager who will keep us afloat like Sevilla, nothing else.
I am amazed by your three examples. Ranieri, in a long career, has won exactly one title–the Leicester miracle. Simeone does very well with relatively limited resources, but I have not noticed too many titles there either (you can’t count the Europa League if you are contrasting him to Emery). I’m not familiar with Allegri’s previous managing history, but the idea that Juventus has won titles “with less investment” than its rivals is ludicrous.
You have to give him a chance and also remember that he managed Valencia and regularly got them to 3rd behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
From your list, we can only take Ranieri as a manager who overachieved with given resources and that was a fluke. Simeone did fantastic job with his team, but honestly, we cannot even compare current Arsenal team with that Atletico team, they have much more solid defensive core. Allegri already received the most dominant team in Seria A and his only achievement was to get them to 2 UCL finals, which as a result, counts to nothing.
The fact that he’s won titles in France and beaten Klopp in a European final….not many get the better of Guardiola…usually Guardiola outsmarts himself.
Whom do you think can win us a title over pep and Klopp ?
I think it’s a refreshing and very fair thing to say. Liverpool just lost the league with 97 points proving that you can build a very good team and have nothing to show for it. We’re competing against the richest opposition in the history of football and every team in the top 4 has at least one genuinely world class player, so just competing is more than most managers and most teams could dream of doing
But like you said what is the point of competing if you are not even thinking of winning the title?
At this rate, we are just going to be top 4 also rans ( if we are lucky)
We can all say we are going to win titles – that’s easy to come up with. Putting it into reality is the tough part and being competitive – get closer and ahead of those around you – is the first step. Only then do we say we can win titles.
Can you take your negativity elsewhere…with a squad he mostly inherited Emery got us to 1 point off top 4 and to a European final in his first season.
Step by step, Sam. We first need to get competitive, then can consider of challenging for a big titles(EPL and UCL). In order to skip forward, we would require a massive financial investment and we all know that ain’t gonna happen.
Nobody can guarantee titles, but being competitive gives you the best chance of winning one. I’d much rather have a realist state the facts than some pie in the sky nonsense which they can’t deliver. I wasn’t sure of Unai Emery and was seriously fed up with his boring football and problems with senior players, but I’m starting to like him a lot. What I like most is that he’s prepared to learn and change things to improve all the time, and after the final years of Arsene Wenger (speak to me when you’ve managed a thousand games, I know… Read more »
“Chameleon team” needs to be noted. He gets a lot of stick for not having an ‘identity’, when it has been clear for a while that this flexibility was always the goal.
It’s not gone as well as can be hoped, but it’s good to see a new approach in what had become an extremely dogmatic atmosphere. Hope he succeeds.
People are obsessed with coaches having an “philosophy” these days it baffles me a bit that a team shouldn’t be able to sit deep and play on the counter and also be able to press high and dominate possession. These are high level footballers…
Not sure some players in our team can be considered as “high level footballers”, their salary and transfer fee suggest that they should be, but quality doesn’t.
He had me at “The” Arsenal..
Very refreshing to hear him express himself more freely in his native tongue. Far more telling than anything that he’s said to our media on English.
Emery needs time…. The comments about Pep spending big on defenders is interesting, particularly as he’s made previous comments about Van Dijk, he was also publicly crying out for wingers in January, this type of directness is refreshing, at least if these requirements are not met? Then we know who to blame, because he can’t have been much clearly about what he needs. He’s also talking about the physical nature of PL again, and the need for us to become more physical, something many of us have being saying for the past decade, therefor i wouldn’t be surprised if we… Read more »
He has to improve as a defensive coach or he won’t be here for very long. We conceded over 50 league goals this season: nowhere near good enough. We need to go out and buy a couple of quality defenders and then coach them as part of a miserly back 3 or 4. If not we’ll do nothing in the PL next season.
True. But let’s be fair. He improved us 7 points and one place. If he does the same again next year, that will surely be enough to qualify for the CL by itself. The process is and will be incremental, but it can’t be otherwise given the constraints we have.
He isn’t perfect ; and no alternative is or would be either. Fans have got to take that on board. His contract could run for another two years. If at the end of that period he’s got us close to challenging for the title, that will a job well done.
Everyone was saying the same thing about Klopp and Liverpool only 18 months ago, I don’t think there’s any quick or cheap fixes.
“I didn’t promise titles, I promised to compete”. It’s the least the job at Arsenal requires. Am happy to compete because we haven’t been competitive in a while. Our results against the big teams this season lend credence to us being more competitive. Winning titles is an outcome of being competitive so they’ll come….hopefully starting in Baku. On a side note, I like how he straight away told and showed the players all games were important….taking the likes of Ozil to those group stage Europa league games in far-flung locations. It’s no coincidence we have a final to show for… Read more »
If we win the Europa League, can we please have an arsecast extra solely on interview?
“I did not promise titles. I promise to compete for them”
Interesting choice of words. Will you hire a guy who says he cannot win you a title but he will try to win one?
If money equates to league position, as everyone seems to tell us, then we’re behind Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea. Even Sp*rs could have more money to spend this window than us. Not promising titles is the kind of thing a realist and someone of integrity would say under duress instead of (lie) the opposite. Everyone here knows we’re rebuilding and have to do it slowly thanks to our stupid fucking ownership. The good thing is we have some class youngsters coming through like Smith-Rowe, Nelson, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nketiah plus Chambers and Bielik who, have all impressed… Read more »
I enjoyed his honest reply; I just wish he had eked out 2 more points from the last 6 games – one more goal against Brighton!
Not sure if all you guys realize how intelligent and observant this guy is!.
He soaks up everything. He sees our shortcomings and acknowledges them, as well
as understanding how we can unbalance opposition defences with our forwards.
I really like the way he changes our style to suit the opposition’s expected format.
I think his methods are not the problem – it’s the execution by our players that let
us down this season (most of the time)
His next job is to concentrate on tightening things up defensively.
I like this interview and his view of us being a chameleon team adapting the style according to who you’re playing it makes you a lot less predictable. I’m a fan of Unai considering what he inherited he has done well but there are clear improvements needed. It’ll be interesting the type of players we get to fit those chameleon traits
As suspected, Emery wants us to have varied ability not surprising. Unai has adopted to types of attack this season. 1) 3 prong up front with Iwobi/Mhki supporting a main striker, this normally works better on the counter with Auba on apex (sometimes Laca for ball protection) 2) Two up top supported by Ozil tends to be employed against teams sitting deep and constricting space. In this case, we benefit from the extra player up top in and arund the box. BUT again many people prefer to confuse themselves finding a convenient scapegoat in Mustafi to blame everything on. Mustafi… Read more »