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.
fin de match 3-1 , il sait qu'il va prendre cher par ses meilleurs ennemis pic.twitter.com/JDBh5w0rSH
— Yahoo Sport France (@YahooSportFR) April 30, 2017
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.