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Opinion

Stunning Champions League quarter-finalist v The man who turned Newcastle United around

2 months ago
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Unai Emery wasn’t flavour of the month on Tyneside when turning down the chance to replace Steve Bruce just over four months ago.

The new Newcastle United owners making one of their few real mistakes, pushing the message out in the press prematurely that Emery was set to come in, only for the Spaniard to decide to stay at Villarreal.

NUFC then having to turn to their second choice, who had also been interviewed a number of times, Eddie Howe.

A real sliding doors moment possibly for both Unai Emery and Eddie Howe, in terms of their management careers.

So did those sliding doors do Newcastle United a favour in the end…?

Well a quite remarkable Wednesday night speaks massively in favour of Unai Emery.

After drawing 1-1 at home, minnows Villarreal went to Juventus last night for the second leg of their last 16 Champions League match. It was pure Unai Emery. The home side having control of most of the match, vast majority of possession and shots, however, very few real scares for the visitors.

Then their moment came with 12 minutes to go, Villarreal winning a penalty and Moreno converting, then really rubbing it in, two additional late goals for the Spanish side against the Italian giants.

A quite brilliant night for Unai Emery as he marches into the last eight of the Champions League and who knows…this is the man who won three Europa League titles in a row with Sevilla, won numerous trophies with PSG, then possibly his greatest moment, taking such a small club as Villarreal in his first season as manager, then winning their first ever trophy. Winning the Europa League in typical Unai Emery fashion as massive underdogs, beating Arsenal in the semis and Man Utd in the final.

Great to see upsets and at least a couple of unexpected clubs in the Champions League last eight this time. Villarreal and Benfica, joining Real Madrid, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich in the quarter-final draw.

Since turning down Newcastle United, Unai Emery and his team have played 17 league matches, winning ten, drawing three and losing only four. Villarreal now seventh in the table and only six points off the top four.

So did Newcastle United get the wrong man?

Eddie Howe results in Premier League with Newcastle United

Played 17 Won 7 Drawn 5 Lost 5 (Points 26)

That averages out at 1.53 points per match, which over the course of a full 38 match Premier League season would give 58 points.

Looking at the past five seasons, a 58 points total would usually mean a top eight finish, with final Premier League placings of 8th, 7th, 7th, 8th and 11th from 2016/17 to 2020/21 respectively.

So Eddie Howe took over a squad of players that pundits had lined up to say were so poor it was a miracle that Steve Bruce won any games with them…

The new NUFC Head Coach going on to improve the team and pretty much every single individual, then producing top eight form.

Yes money was spent in January BUT it is the existing players who have been key to the turn around, such as Joelinton, Schar, Shelvey, Fraser etc, whilst the two January transfers to have the biggest impact cost a grand total of £13m, Dan Burn and Matt Targett.

So did Newcastle United win or lose when it came to recruiting Steve Bruce’s replacement?

Well, the new owners got loads of stick, even from some Newcastle fans, for how long it took to appoint someone. However, to me, their intensive process to identify the right man (men?) has been shown to have paid massive dividends. As the two people they ended up with at the top of their list, it was a case of heads you win, tails you don’t lose, when appointing either Unai Emery or Eddie Howe.

If only they had listened to the ‘experts’ and immediately gone for Sam Allardyce…

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