PETE JENSON: Unai Emery is wiser now but still intense... the Spaniard is eager to make up for flopping at Arsenal by leading Newcastle's revival under their new regime

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When Unai Emery gave his first big interview, in May 2020, after losing the Arsenal job, he made no secret of wanting another opportunity in England.

The Spanish coach, who is 50 on Wednesday, told Sportsmail: ‘I learned a lot from the Arsenal job and having that experience in the Premier League.

‘I am continuing to practise and improve my English because that will help me if I return. And if I go back it would be with plenty of enthusiasm because I think it’s a magnificent league.’

Unai Emery still has a fierce intensity about him but is wiser than when he left England

Unai Emery still has a fierce intensity about him but is wiser than when he left England

Unai Emery still has a fierce intensity about him but is wiser than when he left England 

Emery helped steer Villarreal to glory in the Europa League by beating Manchester United

Emery helped steer Villarreal to glory in the Europa League by beating Manchester United

He was without a club at the time and his stock was low after only lasting 18 months at the Emirates.

Last summer he delivered Villarreal’s first ever trophy, beating Manchester United in Poland in the Europa League final.

His team then took Chelsea to penalties in the European Super Cup. If he arrives back in England now he’ll be wiser, and with a little more kudos courtesy of those two games.

But there will still be doubts. Arsenal failed to finish in the top four in his one full season. Villarreal would not have made the Champions League last season had they not won the Europa League. They are now 13th with only two wins this campaign.

His intensity remains his trademark. After Arsenal lost the Europa League final to Chelsea in 2019 in Baku he had just three hours’ sleep before going back into Colney and calling individual meetings with all the players to discuss the upcoming season.

Some players buy into the demands — Mesut Ozil was the only one who didn’t attend — and if they all do an energy is created that can make a team greater than the sum of its parts.

He won three Europa Leagues at Sevilla and if Newcastle see winning one of the lesser trophies as the first step on the road to becoming a top European club then Emery knows the route well.

Recruitment would still be key. At Arsenal he understood his role as coach as opposed to all-powerful manager and would have accepted being overruled on big decisions if, when results were poor, those who had made the calls took some blame.

He says he wanted Arsenal to sign Wilfried Zaha and not Nicolas Pepe. ‘I had a meeting with Zaha, the Palace player. I could see that he won so many games on his own,’ he told Sportsmail in 2020.

‘The club decided to sign Pepe because he was younger, he was coming from France, and the adaptation was going to take longer. I wanted Zaha because he knew the Premier League.

Emery is set to replace Steve Bruce, who was sacked after Newcastle's defeat by Tottenham

Emery is set to replace Steve Bruce, who was sacked after Newcastle's defeat by Tottenham

‘When results went against us, and people began to criticise me, no one inside the club knew how (to protect me).

‘(Director) Monchi protected me at Sevilla. At PSG the president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, protected me a lot. At Arsenal I did miss them protecting me.’

His time at Paris Saint- Germain ought to serve him well and he will not want to repeat the experience at Arsenal where the relationship with Ivan Gazidis, Raul Sanllehi and Edu deteriorated too soon.

He will leave behind a Villarreal squad that president Fernando Roig said this week was the best in the club’s history. Emery can take some credit for the way 19-year-old winger Yeremy Pino and 24-year-old Pau Torres have become Spain internationals.

The new Newcastle owners wanted to secure a progressive coach with a big reputation

The new Newcastle owners wanted to secure a progressive coach with a big reputation 

At Arsenal he gave a debut to Bukayo Saka and told Sportsmail last year: ‘I think he is going to be a sensational player.’

How important young home-grown players are going to be in the Newcastle project remains to be seen. His connection with the fans could be more important.

‘Football is pure emotion,’ he says. ‘It’s a group of people wanting the same thing. In England that is very entrenched.

‘You go to Wolverhampton, you go to Leicester, you go to Norwich, go to Newcastle and the people in Newcastle have a passion for Newcastle and the people in Norwich have a passion for Norwich and in north London the people have a passion for Arsenal or Tottenham, Crystal Palace in the south, Chelsea in the centre. And that sense of identity brings the game in England alive.’

He’s about to get a real taste of that Newcastle passion.

Emery lives for the passion and emotion of football and will find it in Newcastle

Emery lives for the passion and emotion of football and will find it in Newcastle 

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