European experts Unai Emery and Carlo Ancelotti face off in heavyweight duelby Chloe Beresford / 09 April 2019, 08:46Tweet
As Arsenal face the first leg of a difficult Europa League quarter-final with Napoli, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the task that’s been faced by Coach Unai Emery and his counterpart Carlo Ancelotti.
The Gunners’ boss took over from Arsene Wenger after 22 years at the helm, and while Ancelotti only succeeded Maurizio Sarri after three seasons in charge, the latter man took on another huge challenge of continuing with Napoli following the current Chelsea manager’s enormously precise style of play.
An experienced man such as Ancelotti was always going to play his own way, even though it meant overhauling such an ingrained philosophy with largely the same squad of players. Just like Emery, results have been mixed, as Napoli find themselves an astonishing 20 points behind runaway leaders Juventus with seven matches still left to play.
Following a 2-0 defeat to his former side AC Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-final, Ancelotti now has just one objective left to accomplish: to win the Europa League. In doing so, he would eclipse Sarri’s time at the club in one fell swoop, the former man in charge having wowed the Neapolitan crowds with his entertaining style of football without having handed them a single trophy.
Domestic results have been disappointing for Napoli in the last two rounds of Serie A, a defeat to relegation-threatened Empoli and a 1-1 draw with mid-table Genoa giving their boss cause for concern.
“We’re defending badly at the moment,” the Coach admitted to reporters at Sky Italia after the aforementioned stalemate.
“Even when it was 11 against 10, and that means we cannot control the game. If you control the game, you don’t allow counter-attacks, you don’t let the opposition to turn and run at you.
“It’s an alarm bell, certainly, because if we play like this in London, then we’re in trouble. It is unusual to see Napoli doing that, so we have four days to focus back on the basics, because these are basics we’re getting wrong.”
His concern is understandable, but it seems only natural that these players would struggle in a league where they no longer have much to play for, in the knowledge that they have a huge European tie to come.
Yet Ancelotti’s meticulous preparation for the fixture is part of his incredible pedigree in Europe. There is absolutely no doubt that the Italian would love to add a maiden Europa League trophy to a personal list that includes three Champions League titles, but he has come up against a formidable adversary before the final is even within his sights.
Emery may also be in the early stages of his tenure at Arsenal, but he is no stranger to success in this competition. At Sevilla, the Spaniard lifted the trophy in no less than three consecutive seasons, and how sweet it would be for him to show and prove that he can repeat that feat with a Premier League side.
The pedigree of these bosses – along with the parallels found in their current situations – sets up what will surely be a fantastically entertaining pair of quarter-final matches.
Both men are looking to achieve something tangible in the first season at their respective new clubs. Who will come out on top?