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Has Unai Emery reached the point of no return at Valencia?
- Updated: 7 April, 2012
“Stay Unai” was the ironic chant that rang out from the Levante fans towards the end of their come-from-behind derby draw against Valencia last Sunday at the Mestalla.
Arouna Kone’s 13th goal of the season not only allowed his team to avoid a quartet of derby defeats this season but denied Valencia breathing space in third place following Malagas loss the previous day.
Levante’s equalizer also made it 25 points dropped from winning positions for Unai Emery’s team this campaign, a disturbing statistic for any football club at any level, but for a team with a set of fans renowned as the most demanding in Spain and a financial situation that requires Champions League football to stand a chance of progression, Unai Emery looks to have reached the point of no return – the ironic chants from the Levante fans are unlikely to become satisfied.
Overturning their 2-1 first leg deficit at the Mestalla with a 4-0 Europa League win over AZ Alkmarr; securing a Semi-Final place against Atletico Madrid may provide a dose of respite for Emery, but it’s likely to only be temporary with a trip to the Santiago Bernabau next up this weekend.
A loss to a team that’s won 13 of their 15 home games scoring 60 goals and conceding only 17 in those fixtures wouldn’t be deemed a disaster but the performance will be scrutinised as Valencia have been far from convincing in big games under Emery, their lack of progress in European and domestic cups can be cited as evidence.
Those criticisms don’t entirely stand up this season though, a humiliation at the Camp Nou and an implosion that led to the team not progressing from their Champions League group are countered by dominant performances when Barcelona and Real Madrid visited the Mestalla, and their forays into the semi-finals of both the Europa League and Copa del Rey.
Emery has also been hampered by variables outside of his control, the Rami-Ruiz partnership which made Valencia’s back line look like one of the best in Europe hasn’t quite recovered since the pair were separated after the latter injured himself.
The injuries to Ever Banega and Sergio Canales have also played a huge part, a loss of two of the squads most intelligent players has no doubt hampered the team tactically and also effected talisman Roberto Soldado, the lack of service could perhaps of contributed to his now vast collection of yellow cards.
The Emery debate is one that will continue as long as his remains coach, but it’s also an argument that he looks to be losing particularly in the eyes of those who matter. The fans are now hyping the chances of a return for former manager Rafael Benitez, and the directors of the clubs are now actively searching for a replacement with Espanyol’s Mauricio Pochettino at the top of the list.
A cup win and a third place finish may well follow for Unai Emery, and given the circumstances that is all he should realistically be able to achieve, sadly for him however, even that won’t be enough to fore fill the Levante fans wishes.Follow @icentrocampista