The Paris Saint-Germain owners seem so desperate secure the club’s first ever UEFA Champions League they appointed a cup specialist in the summer with the hope that their new boss can deliver what they crave.
PSG acquired Unai Emery this summer on an ominously and tellingly short two-year deal to displace Laurent Blanc who oversaw three of the team’s four consecutive Ligue 1 titles, as well winning additional silverware in the form of French and League Cups along the way.
Blanc’s teams were never able to advance past the quarterfinals of the Champions League, a goal that president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and ownership group Qatar Sports Investments made clear was the ultimate benchmark for the club’s success.
Since taking over the club in 2011, Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s Qatar Sports Investment group have pumped in a sizable investment on PSG to turn them into a European super-power. Carlo Ancelotti was tasked with taking the Parisians into a new era, and coming in with Champions League winning experience with AC Milan, the Italian was deemed the right man to bring continental glory to the Parc Des Princes.
However, the club lost their man in 2013 to Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid where Ancelotti helped Los Blancos to their elusive tenth Champions League crown in his very first season at the Bernabeu. Laurent Blanc has since been in-charge of managerial affairs at the club and it’d be fair to say PSG have made a fair amount of progress, growing into a near invincible force in the Ligue 1 under the former Les Bleus‘ boss. While Blanc’s men have established their authority in the domestic circuit, European success is still out of reach.
With that target in mind Emery’s resume makes impressive reading. With ex-club Sevilla the former-midfielder delivered three consecutive UEFA Europa League trophies, displaying the attributes to get over the finish-line in continental competitions. While Emery may not have made the grade with Sevilla in the Champions League the added financial resources available to him in France, as well as his determined and workmanlike management style, European glory seems just as plausible for PSG this campaign as it had been under Blanc.
In this season’s UEFA Champions League the French champions were seeded first in a group containing Arsenal, Basel and Ludogorets, a group which will be considered completely winnable, especially if they can take maximum points in their three home games.
At Emery’s unveiling the Spanish coach played down the importance of dominating Europe. “The Champions League? Of course it is an important aim, but there are others,” Emery told a news conference. Adding: “Expectations are very elevated at a big club like this, it is a club of winners. What is the limit of this team? There is none. Our goal is to continue progressing, improving and growing. There is great optimism. With the current team, I think we can achieve big things.”
As well as being a a football obsessive, Emery is an expert video editor, a trait he used to strong effect when preparing for match-days. “For me, football is passion and emotion,” he explained to UEFA.com. Emery does not employ a video analyst, instead compiling, cutting and editing footage of opponents himself. “For every game, I might spend 12 hours just on the video,” he said. “In an hour the players have to understand everything you’ve seen in 12.”
His obsession with the beautiful game is encapsulated in the fact that Le Parisien’s boss has an official website and regularly updates his blog with tactical notes and general musings on football and life. He also invited fans to guess his starting XI for Sevilla matches, with prizes for guessing correctly. The website is available in three languages and can be found here.
Emery’s experience in the modern game began in Spain where he took the reigns with Lorca Deportivo and Almeria in short unsuccessful stints before making a name for himself in a 4-year spell with Valencia between 2008 and 2012. At the Mestalla the Spaniard led a faltering side into the Champions League but parted company with the club when the club’s board’s ambitions exceed the footballing reality.
After a disastrous six-months in Russia with Spartak Moscow in 2012 Emery returned to Spain, this time at the Ramon Sanchez Pizuan midway through the 2012/2013 season. After steadying the ship with Sevilla for the remainder of that season the obsessive boss delivered UEFA Champions League qualification for the subsequent seasons by winning the UEFA Europa League on three consecutive occasions.
In his new role in the French capital the 44-year-old coach has already had to address issues with the Ligue Un champion’s squad. The loss of talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic is undoubtedly a massive blow to the side and the recruitment of a replacement in the current transfer market has been far from straightforward. It is now becoming easy to speculate that the club will be placing their faith in Uruguayan Edinson Cavani over the coming campaign.
So far in the transfer window the coach hasn’t recruited a replacement number nine but has strengthened his frontline with the inclusion of Hatem Ben Arfa on a free transfer, one of the standout players for OGC Nice last season and some one who can spearhead the attack. Additionally Real Madrid’s winger Jese and defensive playmaker Grzegorz Krychowiak from former club Sevilla have also been welcomed to Paris to boost the squad and their Champions League chances.
Other than the loss of Ibrahimovic to Manchester United there have not yet been any major outgoings from Le Parc Des Princes. Blaise Matuidi’s future received intense scrutiny over a proposed transfer to Juventus but the France international now looks to have pledged his future to the French champions with an improved contract reported to have been placed on the table.
Unai Emery got off to a good start b winning the French season’s curtain raiser with a 4-1 win over Lyon in the Trophy des Champions. The new boss however lost for the first time as Paris Saint-Germain manager when the current champions suffered an early defeat in defense of the Ligue 1 title, losing 3-1 to Monaco.
First-half goals from João Moutinho and Fabinho put Monaco in control and, after Edison Cavani had offered PSG hope, a Serge Aurier own-goal sealed victory for the side who will be challenging for Le Championnat with PSG and Lyon.
This season’s PSG will have a slightly different look and may take some time to settle. Notably, German stopper Kevin Trapp has been instated between the sticks after Salvatore Sirigu left for Sevilla on a season long loan. Trapp has gained experience on-loan at Lens, Bastia and Villarreal but will have his work cut out to banish the memory of his error against Real Madrid at the Bernebeu in last season Champions League, an error which ultimately cost PSG top spot int their group and an easier run in the knock-out stages.
PSG’s backline is likely to be improved with Sere Aurier reinstalled into the team after he fell out with Blanc due to some bemusingly critical comments in regard to his former coach the media. Layton Kurrawa will also make the left-back slot his own this season, a claim justified by his goal on the season’s opening day against Metz. Furthermore Marquinhos was colossal during the Olympics in Rio for Brazil U-23s and will add both competition and depth to a defense also containing Thaigo Silva and David Luiz.