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Unai Emery the king of trophies: why the Villareal boss is so successful in Europe

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Unai Ermey, the king of trophies. Photo: Eurosport
  • Emery analyzed 17 Manchester United games before the Europa League final, and that is what he always does before a crucial match
  • Jurgen Klopp stated that Villareal has the most successful cup competition coach in the whole world
  • Emery is always ready to equip his players with information about opponents and drills on specific tactical approaches for different games
  • The Europa League is more important to Sevilla and Villarreal than other clubs, It’s a tournament Emery and his team always want to win

Both Arsenal and PSG fired the Spaniard, but he is proving to be a master strategist in this season’s Champions League.

Liverpool is big favourites to beat Villarreal and advance to the Champions League final. Still, they will face a serial cup-winner in Unai Emery, who stunned Bayern Munich and defeated Juventus as underdogs on their way here.

Villareal coach admitted that he loves Europa League. Photo: Eurosport

“They have probably the most successful cup competition manager in world football, so he knows what he is doing,” said Jurgen Klopp, fully aware of his opposite number’s quality.

“Unai Emery is the king of the cups. It is unbelievable what he is doing.”

The Basque coach won the Europa League three years in a row with Sevilla from 2014 to 2016, a record fourth time with Villarreal last season, and finished runners-up with Arsenal in 2019.

While in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, Emery also won the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue twice, and he has established himself as a formidable opponent in life-or-death matches.

Emery led PSG to Ligue 1 in 2017-18 but has not had the same success in domestic leagues as in tournament football, in which he has become a specialist.

One reason is straightforward: desire.

The Europa League is more important to Sevilla and Villarreal than other clubs. It’s a tournament Emery and his teams want to win, even if it’s not always regarded favourably elsewhere.

“I’m in love with the Europa League,” the coach admitted this season, though his sights are now set on a higher goal.

He attributes the shift in his thinking to a conversation with Sevilla’s then-president, Jose Maria del Nido, in 2013.

“I told him the objective was to get into the Champions League as I’d done at Valencia,” said Emery. “He asked me if I had won any trophies. If I had celebrated them. Now I understand why he said that to me.”

While some opponents in the competition play their strongest lineup on home soil during weekends before rotating in Europe, Villarreal is doing the opposite this year.

Emery won three consecutive Europa League cups while with Sevilla. Photo: MARCA

The team’s hopes for glory are pinned on the cups with no title challenge to contend with and the top four almost out of reach.

None of Emery’s starting XI against Bayern in the 1-1 second-leg draw in Munich had played in the previous day’s La Liga match against Athletic Club.

The Yellow Submarine, Sevilla, and Arsenal are all capable of fighting bigger, stronger opponents on a one-off basis, but they will all finish behind giants like Barcelona and Real Madrid or Liverpool and Manchester City throughout the season.

Villarreal is sixth in La Liga this season and has had a hit-or-miss season, but they took Chelsea to penalties in the UEFA Super Cup, drew 2-2 with Atletico Madrid twice, and drew 0-0 with Real Madrid twice.

Villarreal can compete with any team due to their emphasis on individual games. Much of this is due to Emery’s tactical attention to detail.

“When you play Juventus in the away leg, you know they will get a bit impatient if you don’t concede. We knew an opportunity would present itself. That’s what happened, what Unai predicted.

“He is busy with me daily, and I have a lot of conversations with him about how to better myself. He is a strategic mastermind.”

It demonstrates the squad’s faith in their coach, which he did not have at Arsenal or in Paris for various reasons, including language barriers.

“I think that a coach’s era at a club doesn’t end when they don’t win titles, but when the squad stops believing in him,” said Emery in 2016.

Unai Emery Arsenal’s fomer coach and was fired, Photo: Getty Images

The 50-year-old is committed to arming his players with every tool available, including information about opponents and drills on specific tactical approaches for different games.

While concentration can wane over 38 weeks in the league, the one-off nature of cup games, with everything on the line, is a strong incentive to watch the videos Emery and his staff provide and prepare as thoroughly as possible.

“I am sure that whatever situation could come up for Villarreal in the final was already predicted by Unai,” former Sevilla defender Coke told El Pais after Villarreal beat Manchester United to win the Europa League last season.

“He studies each video detail and then brings it to the pitch.”

The coach and his staff watch their games four times while at Sevilla, and he is no less thorough now. “The more information you have, the better you can decide,” added Emery at his book launch.

“I trust that more than experience because what worked for you before might not serve you now.”

Before the Europa League final, he watched and analyzed 17 Manchester United games, and he will do the same before heading to Anfield on Wednesday.


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