Unai Emery: who is Aston Villa’s new manager as Steven Gerrard replaced - was he with Arsenal before?

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Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery has been selected to take over Aston Villa from Steven Gerrard

Aston Villa have appointed Unai Emery as the new manager following the sacking of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. The Spaniard will be joining the club from Villareal with Aston Villa.

Emery is no stranger to Premier League management having previously managed Arsenal from 2018 until 2019. The 50-year old inherits an Aston Villa side who have endured a difficult start to the season.

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Steven Gerrard was sacked as Aston Villa manager after a poor start to the season (Getty Images)Steven Gerrard was sacked as Aston Villa manager after a poor start to the season (Getty Images)
Steven Gerrard was sacked as Aston Villa manager after a poor start to the season (Getty Images) | Getty Images

Here we take a look at Unai Emery’s career so far and assess whether he could be the man to get Aston Villa back on track.

Who is Unai Emery?

Unai Emery is a Spanish manager with over 18 years of experience. He is best known for his achievements at Seville but has managed a host of big teams throughout Europe.

Emery was born in Hondorabbia, Spain and is a native speaker of the Basque language. His father Juan and his grandfather Antonio were both goalkeepers during their playing days.

Emery began his footballing career at Real Sociedad and emerged through their youth system as a left sided midfielder. He struggled to get regular first team football at Real Sociedad and left the club to join Toledo in 1996.

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After his departure from Sociedad he spent the majority of his career in the second tier of Spanish football, although his future in the game was cut short through injury and he ultimately retired from football aged 32.

Emery’s early managerial career

Shortly after his retirement from football, Emery was offered the vacant managerial position with his final club Lorca Deportiva. He went on to enjoy an exceptional first year in management - in 2004/2005 he steered Lorca to promotion and got them to the second tier of Spanish football for the first time in their history.

Following promotion to the second tier, Emery proved himself to be one of the most exciting young coaches in Spanish football and narrowly missed out on automatic promotion with Lorca in 2005/2006.

In 2006, Emery left Lorca to join fellow second tier club Almeria and in his first season with the club he guided them to automatic promotion into the Spanish top flight. This was an incredible achievement for the club and it was the first time they had competed in La Liga since their foundation in 1989.

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Unai Emery has enjoyed a great deal of success over the course of his career (Getty Images)Unai Emery has enjoyed a great deal of success over the course of his career (Getty Images)
Unai Emery has enjoyed a great deal of success over the course of his career (Getty Images) | Getty Images

The Andulasian club were one of the favourites to be relegated at the start of the 2007/2008 campaign, but Emery’s team defied expectations and recorded an impressive 8th place finish in their first season. This prompted Emery to move to Spanish giants Valencia, where he replaced Ronaldo Koeman.

Emery managed Valencia from 2008 until 2012 and was relatively successful during his time at the club. During the majority of his time at Valencia they regularly qualified for the Champions League despite having financial difficulties off the pitch. However, during his time at Valencia he lost a number of key players such as David Villa and David Silva, both of whom he struggled to replace due to the clubs financial predicament.

After four years at Valencia, Emery left for a new challenge at Spartak Moscow, but struggled to find form early on with his new side - he was sacked by the Russian after six months.

Emery’s later managerial career

Following his disappointing spell in Russia, Emery returned to La Liga to join Seville in January 2013. He replaced head coach Michel after a less than stellar run of results.

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Emery enjoyed sustained success at Seville and was quick to turn the fortunes around for the Spanish giants. During Emery’s time at the club Seville became the kings of the Europa League, winning an unprecedented three consecutive titles.

His achievements at Seville attracted the attention of French champions Paris Saint Germain and he agreed to join the club in 2016. By this point, PSG had become one of the richest teams in the world of football and it was hoped that Emery would be able to take the team to their next level and win the Champions League.

Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager (Getty Images)Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager (Getty Images)
Unai Emery replaced Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager (Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

In his first season with the Parisian Club, Emery missed out on the Ligue 1 title to Monaco but nevertheless enjoyed huge success domestically winning both the Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France. The following season in 2017/2018 PSG retained both cup competitions and also lifted the Ligue 1 title by a comprehensive margin of 13 points.

Despite the success at PSG, Emery left the club at the end of the season with a year remaining on his contract.

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Emery took his first steps into English football in 2018 when he succeeded club legend Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. It proved to be a difficult task for the Spaniard in North London and in his first year with the team, Emery missed out on the Champions League places by finishing 5th and missed out on European glory by losing the Europa League final to Arsenal. Emery was sacked midway through his second season at the club after a poor start to the 2019/2020 campaign.

Since leaving Arsenal, Emery has successfully restored his reputation as an elite manager. In his first year with Villareal he lifted the fourth Europa League title of his career and in his second season with Villareal he defied expectations by guiding them to a Champions League semi-final.

Will Emery succeed at Aston Villa?

Emery’s return to England has raised the eyebrows of a few pundits after his disappointing stint at Arsenal. The likes of Ally McCoist have labelled the appointment “underwhelming” whilst Danny Murphy criticised his tactics at Arsenal.

Aston Villa opted to bring the 50-year-old to the club despite rumours linking them with the likes of Pochettino and Ruben Amorim.

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The Spaniard undoubtedly faces a tough task after the midlands side’s poor start to the Premier League season - however, he has shown over the course of his career that he is capable of achieving great things.

He is inheriting a talented team that is currently underperforming, with the key to his success dependent on harnessing the talent of players such as Philipe Coutinho and Danny Ings. Emery has a great record in cup competitions and will be aiming to win a first trophy for Aston Villa since 1996.

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