From the outside looking in, from a neutral perspective, Unai Emery couldn’t be doing a better job at Valencia. His side currently sit third in La Liga, holding that position comfortably since the league table took a shape that realistically portrayed each team’s standing—except for maybe Levante and Rayo Vallecano. But while Valencia look to finish third behind Barcelona and Real Madrid for a third consecutive season, the calls for Emery’s removal from his position as manager are deafening.
Valencia’s financial problems are well documented: they’ve had to halt the construction of their new stadium due to lack of funds—something which has fortunately been resolved this season—and the departures of their World Cup winning superstars in David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata should have left the side all at sea with little hope of finishing in the Champions League places in the league. But Unai Emery has kept his side competitive, rebuilding, reshaping and moving impressively in the transfer market to acquire players which he believes are good enough to retain the title of the ‘second league’ in Spain. But the players entering the door at the Mestalla have not done enough to quash the demands from fans for their managers head.
Sergio Canales, despite missing a large part of the season so far through injury, gave another glimpse into the future of Spain’s midfield, as he comfortably slotted into the heart of the midfield alongside Ever Banega. The new-look centre-back pairing of Adil Rami and Victor Ruiz has done well at the back for Valencia, but it’s not been enough.
Fans are complaining of a lack of identity, a lack of motivation, and, most importantly, a lack of excitement and anything of note to cheer for. Coming third best in a league dominated by two of the biggest clubs in world football is not enough, the fans want to be closer to Barcelona and Real Madrid, rather than picking up that fictional first placed trophy for the other league in Spain and being over 20pts adrift of the top two.
In the fans’ eyes, Emery is tactically inept. Surrendering a two goal lead on the weekend to Mallorca is simply not good enough, even if it was preceded by a 4-2 win over PSV in the Europa League on Thursday. The supporters are tired of draws against the top two being the best they can hope for. While they are of aware of their limitations restricting them from overhauling Barcelona and Madrid, they just want to know that there is progress being made. Unai Emery is certainly not that man in their eyes to catapult them onto the next level.
The decision to fire Andre Villas-Boas by Roman Abramovich may be all the impetus Valencia president Manuel Llorente needed to make up his mind that Emery would be gone in the summer, with the Portuguese likely to head the list—albeit, apparently a very short one—to replace Emery.
Despite his extremely early dismissal at Stamford Bridge, Villas-Boas has not had his reputation tarnished in Spain. They understand the demands of the Chelsea job and there is still a feeling that somewhere down the road he may take on the job at one of the big two in Spain.
As for Unai Emery, England could be a likely destination; with the manager taking English lessons and the likely availability of a number of jobs in the Premier League opening up in the summer.
At this stage it would be wrong to assume Emery may be a candidate for the Chelsea job. It would be a re-working of the Villas-Boas episode, and a likely destination would be a team more inclined to offer the manager time to make positive strides forward.
It’s still unclear what the situation at Tottenham will be come the summer with Harry Redknapp keeping himself in no-mans land and not committing to either England or Spurs for the moment. But Tottenham are keen to look for managers with a higher reputation than the Spaniard, despite his excellent work over the past four seasons.
Liverpool could be a possibility, with calls recently from a minority of fans to remove Kenny Dalglish, and with the feeling from the new owner that Dalglish was never intended to be in place for the long-term. John W. Henry always wanted a younger manager who could take the managerial post for many years, with Jurgen Klopp as the front runner prior to Dalglish’s appointment. Picking up another manager from Valencia could be a positive move, as Emery has shown his relentless attention to detail and his ability to keep his side competitive despite a number of injuries to key players.
Whenever it’s questioned why Valencia fans aren’t happy with the manager they have, in light of his excellent achievements from a neutral spectator, the short reply is simply that you wouldn’t understand. Valencia’s proposed move into the Nou Mestalla in 2013 could lay the foundations for a much stronger push to close the gap on the leading two in Spain. But for now, the certain dismissal of Unai Emery in the summer maybe something they look back on as a mistake, especially in a climate where there is very little domestic or European clubs can do to stop the might of Barcelona and Real Madrid.