Paris Saint-Germain was knocked out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night by Real Madrid. The aforementioned team may be the greatest squad in European club football history and the current back-to-back reigning champions, but I see no excuses valid enough for PSG manager Unai Emery to keep his job. It’s time for him to go.
Just over two years ago after another run-of-the-mill Laurent Blanc season, Qatar Sports Investments decided it was time for a fresh face in the shape of Emery. Zlatan Ibrahimovic left at the same time as the outgoing former French manager, which left a gaping chasm within the club but also gave Emery a clean slate to write his story on. Ultimately, the Spaniard has failed to live up to expectations.
Emery was hired to do one specific thing: win in Europe. Domestic success was essentially a guarantee for PSG when Emery was appointed and club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and upper management wanted someone to take that last step towards achieving their goal of Champions League glory. All things considered, he has failed. Two seasons, two first-round exits and both in disappointing fashion. There were moments of pure top-level football against FC Bayern Munich and the 4-0 win over FC Barcelona but they’re quickly outweighed in matches like the 3-1 away loss to OGC Nice in April 2017 and the game-that-shall-not-be-named a few weeks prior (6-1 loss to Barcelona). Emery seems to lack the ability to motivate players and make them work together ruthlessly when it matters, meaning there’s no chance of him being the right guy to achieve PSG’s goals.
Results wise, things have been disappointing, but so have they been tactically. Simply put, Emery is not cut out for this level of football. He appears unable to rotate properly, either switching out eight players or none at all. He can’t be trusted with youth players (as can be seen with Dan-Axel Zagadou and Jean-Kévin Augustin leaving the club and Christopher Nkunku and Giovani Lo Celso mysteriously being omitted time and time again) and he does not know how to make substitutions. At all. The Spaniard seemingly forgets that he has the ability to switch out players three times a game for 80 minutes, before panicking and making a questionable decision. When all is said and done, his in-game management skills are nowhere near what PSG need and he’ll continue to prove it to the club’s higher management every week.
At this point, it’s easy to bring back the debate about the longevity of coaching careers in modern football. I’m thus going to recognize two facts here:
1. Coaches do indeed fare better when they’re given more time and confidence.
2. Emery shouldn’t be judged on the outcome of his first year (hence why I didn’t mention the team finishing second in Ligue 1) because of how much of a transition year it was for the team.
This being said, I still stand by my point. Theoretically, as time goes on, Emery would get to know the club and the players better if he has given more time and remained in the ownership’s good graces, but that doesn’t change the fact that Emery is fundamentally unfit to do what PSG want out of him. I’m not being reactionary, I’m saying that the club took a gamble in hiring him and they should fix their error before it’s too late. Emery was given one of the best squads in world football this season, yet he seemed to step away from all cohesion issues that arose (such as the Neymar Jr./Edinson Cavani penalty fiasco) and just couldn’t make it work.
I’m not writing this as a disgruntled fan reacting to the disappointment of being knocked out of the Champions League. I’m writing this as a mere observer-disappointed yet not surprised. Emery has been consistently mediocre at the highest level and if that’s what PSG want to be, then so be it. Emery isn’t necessarily a bad influence, he’s just not at all up to the task of leading a team to greatness. PSG need ot move on if they want to move forward because the relationship with their current manager just isn’t meant to be.