Three Reasons Why PSG Should Keep Unai Emery (and Why They Shouldn’t)

As the final seconds ticked away in Paris Saint-Germain’s embarrassing 3-1 loss to OGC Nice last Sunday, Unai Emery clenched his teeth, closed his eyes, and tilted his head back in frustration and disbelief. It was the same expression supporters have had throughout what has been a disappointing season leading many to speculate whether the Spaniard’s first season at the helm could be his last.

Calls for Emery’s dismissal are nothing new. Last December after a string of disappointing results, rumors of a managerial change started to bubble up. Luckily for the former Sevilla FC manager, the arrival of Julian Draxler and a 4-0 win over FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quieted those discussions quickly. The resurgence was brief though. Les Parisiens bowed out of the Champions League in historic fashion and with three league matches remaining, it’s almost certain the club will fail to win their fifth consecutive title despite nearly unlimited resources.

So, which one is it? Does Emery deserve to stay or should he pack his bags? It’s the preeminent question facing Paris heading into the summer and one that should be sorted out before any player transfers. Here at PSG Talk, we’re divided like many supporters around the world. Taking the position of keeping Emery is Dave, who is the host of our PSG Talking podcast and on the other side is me, Ed. I’ve previously defended the manager but after one season I’ve seen enough to make my decision. Here are our three reasons to keep Emery, and three reasons why he should be sacked at the end of the season:

Reasons to Keep Unai Emery

1. The Players Aren’t Good Enough

If you compare the starting lineups of PSG and AS Monaco, you’d struggle to find a place for just about any player. Though PSG’s wage budget is certainly stretched across various aging divas, the quality isn’t there to be the best in France. Lucas Moura, for example, has been a mainstay for years and has never shown enough to be a Champions League player. Angel Di Maria and Hatem Ben Arfa are paid extremely well, but have done little to endear themselves. Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic to turn a dull draw into a narrow victory, the deficiencies are even more clear.

2. There’s No Real Transfer Committee

Of PSG’s summer signings, zero started in the 3-1 loss to Nice. Now, that’s not to say they were all disasters–Belgian fullback Thomas Meunier was absolutely a gem of a signing. With him still shaking off an injury, the line-up against Nice may well have been one or two changes away from the PSG of 2014, 15, and 16. Thiago Motta-Blaise Matuidi-Marco Verratti’s golden age is long gone, particularly as the former two players have reached the twilight of their careers. A string of attempts to blood in new midfielders–Yohan Cabaye, Benjamin Stambouli, Grzegorz Krychowiak–have been catastrophic, and only the inconsistent Adrien Rabiot has really been able to enter the rotation consistently. Backup striker Jesé Rodriguez is currently on loan at Las Palmas, Ben Arfa lives on the bench, Gonçalo Guedes and Giovani Lo Celso are largely absent as well. Combine that with selling and failing to replace players, particularly David Luiz’s mental fortitude, and you have a recipe for collapse. Until the team starts making signings that work, there’s no way PSG can be a top team.

3. There’s a Dressing Room Issue

Team captain Thiago Silva came out earlier in the season to say how alarming it was that the media could consistently follow every bit of dressing room drama and gossip. Based on that we can safely say that mid-season rumors of dressing room riots and personality politics influencing Unai Emery’s management have some truth to them. I’m not trying to absolve him completely – he’s made mistakes. But when a team’s leaders in the dressing room pull you aside to say they prefer the old system, what can you do? There’s a cancerous atmosphere of entitlement among these players, and if one half of the solution is to sign new talent, the other half is to restore an atmosphere of professionalism.

Reasons to Sack Unai Emery

1. Poor Results

Laurent Blanc was sacked after a season where he won the league by 31 points (only two losses in Ligue 1), lifted the both the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue trophies, and reached the quarter-final of the Champions League. This season PSG have lost to Monaco, Toulouse FC, Montpellier HSC, EA Guingamp, Barcelona and Nice (so far). They crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 and they’re not going to win the league. I don’t know how you can fall that far below your predecessor and still keep your job at a club that is as high profile as PSG. I’m not even looking so much at the 6-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. The refs had plenty to do with the one but there’s simply no excuse for some of the losses this season.

Keep in mind, Chelsea FC were in dire straights last season with their most successful manager in club history in charge (José Mourinho) and decided to sack him mid-season. Now, Chelsea are likely going to win the Premier League and they’re playing entertaining football under Antonio Conte who I would argue is better than Mourinho. Sometimes, a quick change is needed no matter how difficult it may be for all parties involved. Football is a results-driven profession and Emery is ultimately to blame for this dreadful season. Plus, it’s easier to fire a manager than it is to get a new starting XI.

2. Transfer Failings

Other than Meunier and Draxler, every single player signed after Emery’s arrival last June has been disappointing. I’m not entirely sure how much say the manager had in these signings but it’s fair to say he had some input. It’s also his job to put them in the best position to succeed but far too often I see Emery falling into the politics of the club, which is to play a veteran like Motta over Rabiot for example and not give minutes to youngsters Lo Celso and Guedes in games that are well in hand. The Ben Arfa situation is curious as well. Often left off the team sheet entirely, the Frenchman arrived in Paris following a stellar season at Nice but Emery never found a use for him.

When you consider that Edinson Cavani all but equaled Ibrahimovic’s historic goal output from last season, Emery had a better squad at his disposal and did not get the most out of the players available to him. Whether that’s a motivation issue or a tactics issue that can be debated but the club gave him quality ingredients to cook with and Emery turned it into a dumpster fire.

3. Top Managers Will Be Available

It’s easy to call for the manager to be sacked (#WengerOut) but you have to be able to replace him with someone better–that’s the issue the club ran into when they dismissed Blanc. Emery boasted an impressive UEFA Europa League record with Sevilla but was relatively unproven in the Champions League and he didn’t have the best record against Spain’s best teams. It was Nasser al-Khelaifi’s attempt to elevate what he thought would become Europe’s next great young manager but it blew up in his face. Now, he has to swallow his pride and admit he was wrong by sacking Emery and going after any number of managers who I believe can turn the club around immediately.

For starters, look no further than the team sitting above them in the table. Leonardo Jardim has done an unbelievable job with Monaco considering the turnover of players year-after-year. He has a proven track record with finding and developing young talent, which Paris is flush with, and he currently finds himself in the semi-finals of the Champions League. He would garner the respect of the older players considering his accomplishments this season and he could potentially bring Kylian Mbappé with him, who wouldn’t like that? Other managers that could be available include Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund, Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid and a manager who I believe would be an excellent signing, Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur. The former PSG player could return to the Parc des Princes following a historic year with Spurs where they finished above rivals Arsenal for the first time in 21 years. With Spurs moving into a new stadium and likely unable to pay the high wages his players will demand, he could see this as the opportune time to move on to a bigger club.

Where do you stand? #EmeryIn or #EmeryOut? Let us know on Twitter or leave a comment below.

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Tags Adrien Rabiot Angel Di Maria AS Monaco Benjamin Stambouli Blaise Matuidi David Luiz Giovani Lo Celso Gonçalo Guedes Grzegorz Krychowiak Hatem Ben Arfa Jesé Rodriguez Laurent Blanc Lucas Moura Marco Verratti Nasser Al-Khelaifi OGC Nice Thiago Motta Thomas Meunier Unai Emery yohan cabaye

3 Comments

  1. Jude says:

    Leaving emery for another season will definitely prove to be disastrous. He’ll continue to bend to demands of the dressing room. We need a coach who benches players who don’t perform in matches, not a coach who benches players who haven’t been given a chance at all. I completely don’t understand why he chose to start his regular IX, even when Jardim said he would rest all his first team players in the pre-match conference. I guess Pochettino would be our best option but I’m not sure he’ll leave Spurs just yet, regardless of the wage offered be psg

  2. Aletheia says:

    I have to disagree with a lot of points you’ve made. Comparing Emery’s year to Laurent Blanc’s without taking into account the circumstances is absurd. Blanc never had any real competition (there is a reason Ligue1 was called “farmer’s league”) which guaranteed even relatively average performances could produce great results domestically. Case in point: We have enough points even at this point that in any other year it would have guaranteed us the league championship, Blanc ended his first year with 89 points (followed by Monaco at 80 points), we now have 80 points and there are still 3 games to go. AS Monaco will likely end their season with 95 points and over 100 goals scored, that is a testimony to the great season they’ve had, and if it had happened during Blanc’s era he wouldn’t have won the championship during any of his years apart from the last (89 points, 83 points, 96 points).

    I also have to disagree about Emery having better squad, it is true that Cavani has managed to replace Ibrahimovic to a large extent, but the problem is… no one replaced Cavani. Blanc had two great strikers in his team with Ibrahimovic scoring 44 goals and Cavani added up nearly 20 to that, this season we’ve been almost entirely dependant on Edinson Cavani with our second-highest goal scorer being Lucas with mere 7 goals in the league (and don’t get me started on how horrible he has been in most games). Angel Di Maria has recently recovered his goal-scoring abilities, but his lack of performances during the first half of the season likely cost us a few wins.

    While domestic glory is great, what does winning Ligue1 mean if it’s due to your team managing to pull it off after average performances against even weaker teams? If PSG’s aim is to win Champions League, you need excellent performances against great teams. Laurent Blanc, even at his peak (and despite having Zlatan Ibrahimovic) never managed to beat Manchester City even at home (and while ManCity is a great team, they’re not FC Barcelona). Emery managed to beat Barcelona 4-0 at home – and while the game at Camp Nou was no doubt abysmal – the only reason PSG didn’t qualify was due to corrupt refereeing. On top of that he managed to win one league cup 4-1 against a very tough Monaco side (who offered a level of domestic competition Blanc never had). on top of which we still have an opportunity to win another. I don’t think it is a horrible result for a transitional year (Blanc didn’t fare better in his first season, if we go by points) if we manage to hold on to the second place and Champions League qualification, our start of the season was abysmal but if you look at the results since start of 2017 we’ve been doing very well (apart from one freaky game in Barcelona).

    This season has shown more signs of optimism than I ever saw under Blanc, while those losses have been devastating, PSG as it’s best has shown spark of brilliance not seen in the team before (demonstrated by the wins against Barcelona, Marseille and Monaco) and made me believe that we could finish this if only we got a bit better player material. Next summer’s mercato is crucial, as is getting a new sporting director. I would like to keep Emery and see what he can do with a better player material, an actually decent sporting director and a team that is familiar with his methods (and hopefully won’t fight back unlike several players apparently did during the first half of our current season, he needs to kept his dressing room in check and this is a very valid point of criticism).

  3. Pancho Lipschitz says:

    If PSG had ended the year the way they started Emery would have to go but the Post Zlatan era was always going to be an adjustment for everyone. The Barcelona victory showed what PSG can be under Emery. He deserves another year.

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