Stunning Champions League semi-finalist v The man who turned Newcastle United around
Unai Emery wasn’t flavour of the month on Tyneside when turning down the chance to replace Steve Bruce five 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 Tuesday night speaks massively in favour of Unai Emery.
After pulling off a shock 1-0 win at home in the first leg, minnows Villarreal went to Bayern Munich last night for the second leg of their last eight 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. Indeed, they limited the German giants to only four efforts on target.
One of those four seeing Lewandowski level things 1-1 on aggregate and seemingly set Bayern Munich on their way to finish the job and add more goals to take them into the last four.
Then their moment came with two minutes to go, Chukwueze scoring for Villarreal for a massive surprise result.
A quite brilliant night for Unai Emery as he marches into the last four 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 2021 Europa League in typical Unai Emery fashion as massive underdogs, beating Arsenal in the semis and Man Utd in the final.
The difference in resources of Bayern Munich and Villarreal is incredible, as it was against Juventus, yet Unai Emery and Villarreal triumphed both times. Last night the Spanish minnows scored with their first effort on target and indeed, across the two games against Bayern they only had two shots on target in total, deadly!
Great to see upsets and not the usual clubs qualifying, Villarreal will meet the winners of Liverpool v Benfica, for a place in the Champions League final. Sadly, it looks like the scousers will progress after winning 3-1 away in the first leg, though it would be beyond brilliant if Benfica could perform the comeback and beat Liverpool on aggregate, to ensure either they or Villarreal would make it to the final.
Speaking of comebacks and perfect nights, it was absolutely hilarious and perfection to see what happened to Chelsea last night. Real Madrid had won away 3-1 in the first leg but after scoring three times last night without reply, it looked like the Premier League club would see their name in lights this morning after completing one of the greatest comebacks etc etc. Instead, Real Madrid gloriously scored on 80 minutes to take the game to extra-time and Benzema then got the 5-4 winner on aggregate. What made it even better was the fact Chelsea wasted plenty of other chances as well! They had 28 shots in total to 10 for Real Madrid, the cockneys also having 10 corners to only one for the home side.
However, back to more important matters…since turning down Newcastle United, Unai Emery and his team have played 20 league matches, winning ten, drawing four and losing six. Villarreal now seventh in the table and eight points off the top six.
So did Newcastle United get the wrong man?
Eddie Howe results in Premier League with Newcastle United
Played 20 Won 8 Drawn 5 Lost 7 (Points 29)
That averages out at 1.45 points per match, which over the course of a full 38 match Premier League season would give 55 points.
A quite remarkable turn around, as 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 such excellent 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 / when Eddie Howe keeps Newcastle United in the Premier League, he would become the first even manager in the PL era to lead a team to safety that had failed to win any of their first fourteen matches. These last 17 games under Eddie Howe having produced a magnificent 27 points from only 17 matches t0 transform the season.
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