At the start of the 2016/17 season, it would have seemed outrageous to suggest that in early March we would be discussing the future of Unai Emery at Paris Saint-Germain. The Spaniard was brought in to finally bring the Champions’ League to the Parc des Princes, after coming off the back of multiple Europa League victories with Sevilla and having a much better European pedigree than former boss Laurent Blanc. However, after the events at the Nou Camp that saw Barcelona claw back a four goal first leg deficit and eliminate the Parisians, Emery looks set to face the axe after less than 18 months in charge.
Of course after the embarrassing loss in his home country, Emery was bound to face unprecedented levels of criticism, and in some cases rightly so, but to some degree you just have to put this game to one side (if that’s even possible) and look at the season as a whole. Let’s not forget, Emery’s PSG side shook up Europe with their stunning performance in the first leg of the Barcelona tie, and actually had people believing for the first time, that the French champions could actually bring home the trophy that they have been chasing for so many years.
Their fast tempo, their high, intense pressing game and slick passing was a far cry from the previous regime under Laurent Blanc and made people take notice of them. Finally, they looked like the side they had always craved to be. Ironically, they actually looked like Barcelona. Emery had successful changed the style in which PSG played on a big European night and it looked to have worked, or at least until Sergi Roberto popped up in the 95th minute to snatch away the tie from Paris.
To judge Emery on one single game is almost harsh, and yes I know it was such an outstanding game that showed some of the flaws of PSG, but if we are being totally honest, it was not entirely his fault. He could not have predicted such a comeback, and the only true gripe you could have with him would be the substitutions made in the second half. It is almost impossible to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona at the Nou Camp, so naturally you sit deep. Emery cannot be blamed for the two goals and the late Barcelona fight back was honestly a force of nature.
Historically Emery may not be a ‘league’ manager, but since the winter break, Emery’s side has been superb at times. Some would argue that they should not be chasing anyone in Ligue 1, but they have come up against a monstrous Monaco side and a Nice squad who look determined to bring the Ligue 1 title home. The first half of season was not the finest for the club, but it was a transitional phase. They lost club legend and talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic and were moving into a hew campaign for the first time for many years without Laurent Blanc, it was never going to be a piece of cake for any incoming manager.
Since the winter break, however, Emery has made this Paris Saint-Germain side his own. Fast passing and pressing is what he demands from his players and that is what he has been getting as of late. Just take a look at the first leg against Barcelona in Paris and it was the first time in a long while where Barcelona were bullied, and made to look like just another team. Some performances in Ligue 1 such as the 5-1 demolition of arch rivals Marseille at the Stade Vélodrome was what many believed to be the start of something magnificent at PSG.
At the time of writing, they are still in the hunt for all of the domestic trophies and if the board decide to stand by Unai Emery and let him build this team. If they let him correct what has gone wrong and with players more suited to his style, Emery may work wonders, but only if he is given time.