Emery: 'A huge challenge'
New Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery knows that taking the club from its already impressive achievements to even greater ones will be no easy task, but the Basque is unfazed by the challenge that lies ahead.
A month after taking the reins at the capital club, Unai Emery gave his first long-format interview, which appeared in France Football on Tuesday. The first striking aspect: it was all in French.
"The day after I received the offer from PSG, I started taking a French course," explained the 44-year-old from Hondarribia, in Spain's Basque country. "I had already studied the language a bit, as I grew up right near the border. I included Juan Carlos Carcedo and Julen Masach in my coaching staff because they speak French."
A strong sign of commitment from the new boss man in Paris, but when it comes to which formation his side will play in, his thinking tends towards the flexible.
"I want my team to take control of matches and show their personality," explained the coach who took Sevilla FC to three successive Europa League titles playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation. "I'm inspired by Guardiola and Simeone but also Bielsa. This team has worked well in the last few seasons playing a 4-3-3 and they can also play in the other system. The two shapes are similar and, for me, it's not important. What counts is how the players move out on the pitch. The system is a snapshot from a specific moment, but after ten seconds and some movement, if you take another photo, it will be different. I love movement and knowing how to trick the opponent."
The club has already signed Hatem Ben Arfa, Thomas Meunier and Grzegorz Krychowiak but Emery indicated that he is still looking for a centre-forward to deputise for new main man Edinson Cavani.
"Cavani played a lot on the left, and now he should feel that he will be the centre-forward, but he needs other players to join him in attack. But it's very important to think it through without rushing anything," declared Emery, reportedly interested in Olympique Lyonnais' Alexandre Lacazette and Fenerbahçe's Robin van Persie. "If Cavani gets injured, for example, we'll need a player who is up to the task of playing for PSG. The trick is to get the right player for a big club like Paris."
While Emery was doubtless on the wishlist of many clubs big and small around the world, the Spaniard explained what tiped the balance in Paris Saint-Germain's favour.
"The club, with the current owners, is a young one. My career, with what I've achieved, should give the club a chance to grow," he explained. "But it also gives me a chance to grow. Before signing, I asked the president why he wanted me to sign. He gave me this explanation: 'The work you did to grow your club and win three Europa Leagues - that's what I want for my team, with your passion and your ambition. My team is good, but I want a plus'. "
Charged with such a task, renowned workaholic Emery prefers to think about the ends rather than the means, which come naturally to him.
"I came here to improve certain details as well as what was already functioning well. That's very difficult. For me, it's a huge challenge," said the new Parisian boss, whose side has already prevailed in pre-season a pre-season friednyl against West Bromwich Albion (2-1) and an International Champions Cup 2016 match against Inter Milan (3-1). "I only know one way: work and the squad's capacity to tolerate it. When you have a strong squad and a player gets sidelined, the squad is capable of making up for his absence by pulling together. PSG will grow, and it's a great opportunity for the players - but also for me and my staff - to make our mark in France as well as in Europe."
Emery's side, currently on tour in the USA, will make their season 2016-17 debut in official competition in the Trophée des Champions against Olympique Lyonnais in Klagenfurt, Austria on August 6.