They are born less than 4 months apart. One on the 3rd of November 1971, the other on 2nd of March 1972. Both 46 years old. Yet one is considered as one of the brightest, best young managers in the game, whilst the other written off. Discarded. Considered a panic appointment in a messy recruitment process by Arsenal.
Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino. Two managers who are the same age, yet their story is so different. One is a proven winner with 8 major honours to his name. The other is yet to win his first trophy.
Since the announcement earlier this week that Emery was a poor appointment, I have found the hypocrisy and miss truths hilarious. Especially when you see the unjustified praise that surrounds Pochettino, and to a lesser Klopp.
Pochettino had a decent career at top level. 18 years that saw him go from Argentina to Spain, to France before returning to Spain, retiring in 2006 at 34. He played for the likes of Espanyol & PSG.
By the time Pochettino had retired, Emery was already into management. A journeyman playing career that saw him play throughout the Spanish league was ended by serious injury at 32. Despite no previous managerial experience, he was offered the vacant manager position at his final club, Lorca Deportiva, by the club president .
He immediately helped the club achieve promotion to the second division for the first time in its history. In his second season, the Murcians’ first ever in the second division, the team finished fifth with 69 points, only five points off promotion to the top flight. They suffered relegation in 2007, after the manager’s departure.
Emery then moved to Almería in division two, and again helped his squad overachieve: after guiding them to a first ever promotion in 2007, the Andalusian side finished eighth in La Liga in 2007–08.
By the time Pochettino had entered management in 2009 with Espanyol, Emery had already spent a year at Valencia, leading them to a sixth place-finish in spite of the club’s serious financial problems.
It is at this point, the line of Pochettino and Emery’s managerial career gets close.
Both stayed managing their clubs in Spain until 2012. During that time, Emery led Valencia to 3 third places finishes on the spin in La Liga. Continually rebuilding the side despite losing the likes of David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.
During those same 3 seasons, Pochettino led Espanyol to league finishes of 11th, 3rd and 14th.
Emery left Valencia in June 2012 to take over a job at Spartak Moscow. He would be sacked in November, a month before Pochettino had quit Espanyol to take over the Southampton job.
Emery returned to Spanish football on 14 January 2013. 4 days later, Pochettino was announced as the new first-team manager of Premier League club Southampton.
It was at this point both managers careers became drastically different, with Emery going on to great success at Sevilla, whilst Pochettino won nothing at Southampton, left for Spurs where he has still won nothing.
It was 3 Europa League wins on the spin that led Emery to join PSG on a two-year-deal in 2016.
In 2 clubs with the French side, he led them to 5 domestic honours out of a possible 6. The only trophy that got away was in his first season when an excellent Monaco side won the league with 95 points – just 1 off the Ligue 1 record.
He left PSG after struggles in the Champions League – although it should be noted he lost to Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The Emery story is one of a manager who took his first job at just 32, took 2 clubs to promotion and 1 side to 3rd in La Liga. A story of 3 European trophies and domestic domination in France – including the domestic treble.
Meanwhile, the Pochettino story contains very little real success. Finishing above a poor Arsenal team and “putting the pressure on” Chelsea for one season the highlights of what is now nearly a decade in management.
Just writing this blog highlights the gulf of class between the two. Yet the press are reporting the stories the other way round.
Following the English media, you would think Arsenal had just employed a man who had failed to win a trophy in 10 years, whilst the Spurs manager was one who had a decade of success and 15 years of experience.
I do understand some of the criticisms of Emery.
Not winning the league in France with PSG is a failure. But then Monaco got 95 points. Maybe we should actually be praising Monaco and Leonardo Jardim (who I am sure Arsenal would have approached) rather than using that season as a stick to bash Emery?
Emery’s lack of Champions League success with PSG has also been held against him.
In two years in Paris, he was knocked out at the last 16 stage both times. Against Real Madrid and Barcelona. It is not exactly failure to go out against those sides.
He came in for heavy criticism for the defeat to Barcelona, and rightly so. Leading 4-0 after the first leg, Barcelona beat PSG 6-1 at the Nou Camp to progress.
But I feel the Champions League criticisms are unfair.
Pep Guardiola has had equally as much to spend at Manchester City. In his two years in England, he is yet to win the Champions League.
Knocked out in the last 16 last year to Monaco, and Liverpool in the Quarter Finals this year. I do not see too many criticising Guardiola for his Champions League failures.
In fact, Guardiola has not led a team to Champions League success since 2011 with Barcelona – he failed to lift the trophy with Bayern Munich.
I do not see too many labelling Guardiola as a poor manager based on 7 years of Champions League failure with top clubs. Yet people are labelling Emery the same after his experience with PSG.
Back to Pochettino, we once more see his paths cross with Emery.
In his first two years at Spurs, he managed Spurs in the Europa League. Spurs were knocked out at the last 32 and last 16 stages.
The winners both of those years? Sevilla. Lead by Unai Emery.
One huge criticism of Unai Emery is his “lack of English”. But the language barrier, alongside his age, is probably the only thing he has in common with Pochettino.
Pochetinno spent year and a half hiding behind a translator at Southampton.
He made a decision to speak English only in private at St Mary’s. Emery is similar at the moment.
From watching UEFA interviews, he fully understands English, but chooses to answer in Spanish. This is due to him wanting to get his message across the press, without manipulation, ensuring nothing is lost in translation.
After a few months of living in England, and some confidence in himself to speak English in public, everything will be fine. English will be the language of the training ground.
Based on their careers so far, Emery has outperformed Pochettino. It would not be a big shock to see Emery win a trophy for Arsenal before Pochettino wins one for Spurs. He is the successful manager of the two, the winner. Even if the media will have you believe otherwise.