Champions League

PSG's Emery with all to prove in CL

2016-09-12 11:58
Unai Emery (Getty Images)

Paris - Unai Emery arrived in France with a reputation as one of Europe's brightest coaching talents, but he admits that he has moved out of his "comfort zone" by taking the Paris Saint-Germain job.

The 44-year-old Spaniard leads the French giants into their Champions League opener against Arsenal at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday knowing the outcome could prove crucial in determining who wins Group A.

Certainly in a section also featuring Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad, nobody at PSG is envisaging anything other than progress to the knockout stage for a club who have reached four successive quarter-finals.

Indeed, going beyond the last eight, while also dominating domestically, is the only way Emery can improve on the job done by his ousted predecessor Laurent Blanc.

"I've arrived at a club that want to keep on winning and to kick on to the next level. That's the challenge and it's a difficult one," Emery said in an interview with UEFA.com last week.

"Here the requirement is to win and the players are aware of that. And that is not easy. That demands a lot of mental effort from me, the players and the club."

A coach as intense as Emery is not afraid to put in the work, although he must be aware that he has put his reputation on the line by coming to Paris.

Losing at home is unthinkable for a club that have won every domestic trophy in the last two years, and their unconvincing start to the season has brought inevitable criticism.

PSG's inability to rise above that glass ceiling of the quarter-finals in the Champions League was what led to Blanc's downfall, and yet this is a competition in which Emery still has everything to prove.

PATCHY

Winning the Europa League three years in a row with Sevilla is a remarkable achievement, and three straight third-place finishes with Valencia in La Liga before that was impressive too.

But Emery's Champions League record is patchy at best.

With Valencia, he lost to Schalke in the last 16 in 2011 and then went out in the group stage a year later.

A previous stint abroad with Spartak Moscow lasted just a few months before he was fired in November 2012 after a poor showing in the Champions League, and Sevilla went out in the group stage last season.

"The objective is to grow and do everything in order to become a candidate to win the Champions League," Emery told sports daily L'Equipe in July.

To do that he has to improve a team that has lost its talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester United and not replaced him with a player of similar stature.

Emery has overseen the arrivals of Jese, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Hatem Ben Arfa and Thomas Meunier since his appointment.

All are good players, if not stars in the Zlatan mould. None has yet made an impression at the Parc des Princes.

David Luiz surprisingly left to return to Chelsea on transfer deadline day - against Emery's wishes - and Edinson Cavani still struggles to convince having been handed the keys to the attack post-Zlatan.

All of which means Emery has work to do.

"It is a challenge moving from a big team like Sevilla to another great one like PSG. Each has advantages and drawbacks, but PSG give me the chance to move out of my comfort zone," Emery told UEFA.

It remains to be seen if Emery can export his methods abroad, even if France is not an alien place to him - he hails from Hondarribia, the pleasant Spanish town that looks over the Bidasoa river to Hendaye in the French Basque country.

He has no qualms about expressing himself in French, but the fluency is not there yet, and it is not there in PSG's play so far either.

Emery's PSG remain a muddled work in progress, and Arsenal will hope to take advantage of that.

Read more on:    psg  |  champions league  |  unai emery  |  soccer
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