Who exactly is Unai Emery?

Most of us know his football CV, an underwhelming football career, moving into management after a serious injury to his knee; successfully taking lower league sides up through the divisions before landing the respected job at Valencia. He stayed there for three seasons doing perfectly well and then bizarrely he left to work with Spartak Moscow. Now for the life of me I cannot work out why he would want to go and work in Moscow, so if anyone can throw some light on this please do. He was sacked after 6 months due to bad results.

He returned to Spain to take the reins of Sevilla and, as we all know, he won the Europa three times. Sensibly in my opinion he moved on, I say sensibly because the only way was down after that kind of success. He took the offer to join PSG and won a series of various French trophies which no one cares about because it is about as meaningful as reading the list of Celtic’s palmares.

It is thought that the reason he left PSG was because he found it impossible to micro manage the likes of Neymar. I have added the word micro myself as that in my opinion is what he does and by the way I am in all favour of it as it seems to be working well at the home of football.

Gazidis gave some cock and ball story on how the club were interviewing 5 different candidates for Wenger’s job, yeah, yeah, yeah. In reality it seems we were hours away from appointing the only decent option available and that was Arteta. Now if you were not scared about the idea of someone with zero managerial experience taking the helm then you should have been. Anyway, rather than drag up the past I believe we got lucky in the sense that all of a sudden PSG wanted rid of Emery and we needed someone just like him. So, right place right time.

Interestingly, or certainly interestingly to me, we seemed to have got lucky in a similar way with our Director of Football, Raul Sanllehi. This guy’s credentials are something special; to keep it short, he really was the top dog at Barcelona for a long, long time, no easy task in that cut throat world. From what I can gather he was, among many other things, the one that was able to keep “Team Messi” on side for so long; he finally fell from grace over losing Neymar. Lucky us, right place right time.

Sanllehi (far right seated)

Back to Unai Emery, let’s start with his full name and an explanation “Unai Emery Etxegoien” It is very common in Spain to have two last names “Etxegoien” is his mother’s name and is as Basque as Basque can be, I can’t find the meaning so if anyone can please let me know?

Quick language history lesson, the majority of languages in Europe descended from the region now called India hence the name Indo European. But Basque predates all of them; it is a Stone Age language that has somehow survived. Quick story, most languages have to deal with the Anglo Saxon bulldozer, the word computer is a good recent example; most countries, in an attempt to stop even more English entering their language’s vocabulary found a replacement that sounded a bit more like their own. France = ordinateur, you get the drift. But Basque is so old that they had issues long before when the new-fangled “Scissors” came along, so being a Stone Age language their solution was to use the Basque equivalent of Two Sharp Stones, get it? You have no idea how much I dine out on that story in Spain.

Our Manager’s first name, Unai, is very common in the Basque Country and it means ‘shepherd’. His father’s name, Emery is confusing because it does not sound Basque and it does not sound Spanish, again if anyone knows the origin please let me know.

To me the Basque Country represents the industrial north of Spain; I think it is possible to draw direct comparisons with the UK: “Sophistication, I’ve been to Leeds”. I put this down to why Emery is poorly dressed: the jacket he wears fits him so badly, the shirt looks like something that the club gives out to anyone working there and the tie is sloppy.

I don’t want to be too harsh on the Basque Country because they do have the beautiful San Sebastian (or Donostia in Basque) and by way of example, it has as many Michelin-starred restaurants in that little town as we do in London. I do not pray at the Michelin Guide’s altar but it does give an idea of how the town takes its food seriously and trust me I have put in hours and hours of research into this!  That care for food does trickle down to the more everyday eateries such as Tapas Bars.

Tapas, we have all heard of Tapas, what does it mean and where does it come from? It comes from the Spanish word ‘Tapar’ which means to cover and goes back to, let’s say, Shakespearean times – a long time ago. Coachmen used to enter the inn, get a tankard of beer or wine and on top would be slices of ham or cheese covering the top of the tankard. Tapar = cover, Tapas = expensive “covers” you find in the now fashionable Upper Street, Islington. There is one last important thing here and that is because Basques want to protect their own language: remember Two Sharp Stones? Well, in the Basque Country, Tapas are called Pinxos and they are on another level of fantasticness.

Again back to Emery and in particular his hair: the style of slicked back and dyed has, without any shadow of a doubt, been influenced by his time at Seville; they take their appearance a lot more seriously down there; watch the crowd come out of the main bull ring in Seville, a very dressy occasion, and you will see half the men with that hair style.

Photo by Lindsey PARNABY / AFP/Getty Images

So who is Unai Emery? I think I have hardly scratched the surface. I wanted to go into how much he has changed the club but realised that I have waffled on for longer than I expected – maybe next time.



57 Responses to Who exactly is Unai Emery?

  1. Gööner In Exile says:

    Very rarely these days do I read anything that teaches me something. Today LB you have achieved it.

    Now just to go back to this northern industrial area thing? Are we saying we’ve employed the services of the Spanish Sam Allardyce?

    The micro managing bit is also interesting, I think it is a necessity in the modern game as so many players seem to lack that sense of what is required of them without being told. It was interesting to me watching the players who went to Emery at every opportunity (injuries etc) against Fulham to get further instruction or ask for guidance.

  2. chas says:

    Cheers, LB, love this post.

    A bit of googling and use of Spanish to English translation tools has led me to this……………..

    Emery: Norman origin, adaptation of Emmerich (power)

    Etxegoien: It means the ‘highest house’ (Etxe + Goien)

  3. chas says:

    Apparently, Basques trace their ancestry through surnames which appear in their family tree.

    The following appear in Unai’s (with meanings attached)

    Alza: (O Altza), city that gave name to a neighborhood of Donostia

    Virto: A surname of Nafarroa, the Basque territory of Euskal Herría

    Arocena: It is ‘Rock Hill’ or ‘carpenter’ (arotz is wood)

    Aizpitarte: It can be translated as ‘an intermediate space’

    Exposito: Surname that was given to children given in charity

    Etxeberría: Comes from ‘Etxe’ (casa or house) and ‘Berria’ (nueva or new): ‘Casa Nueva’

  4. chas says:

    The above text all looks so much nicer in Spanish/Basque 🙂

    Sus ocho apellidos
    Emery: De origen normando, adaptación de Emmerich (poder)
    Etxegoien: Significa la ‘casa de más arriba’ (Etxe + Goien)
    Alza: (O Altza), ciudad que dio nombre a un barrio de Donostia
    Virto: Un apellido de Nafarroa, el territorio navarro de Euskal Herría
    Arocena: Es ‘Colina de Roca’ o ‘carpintero’ (arotz es madera)
    Aizpitarte: Se puede traducir como ‘un espacio intermedio’
    Exposito: Apellido que se ponía a los niños dados en beneficencia
    Etxeberría: Viene de ‘Etxe’ (casa) y ‘Berria’ (nueva): ‘Casa Nueva’

  5. VP of Oz says:

    brilliant post LB
    I agree on Arteta, dodged a bullet there
    Emery does appear to be the right coach at the right time
    Just as Sanllehi was a perfect fit at the right time
    In fact we are having quite a few of those good fortune moments eg. Sanchez to Manure for Mikhi, Aub, Giroud merry go round that seems to have benefitted us immensely.

    How much of this good fortune is down to a good owner who is running the worlds largest sports club franchise…

    a very long bow there I know:-)

  6. LB says:

    Thanks for the kind words. I was concerned when I first went off on a tangent but then thought dah, it is the international break no one will mind and then couldn’t stop myself. Tangents it was.

    Thanks for this, as well.

    Emery: Norman origin, adaptation of Emmerich (power)

    Etxegoien: It means the ‘highest house’ (Etxe + Goien)

    And by the way Chas your 8.58 should be “Basques” trace their ancestry not “Spanish” trace their ancestry.

    In Spain they have the Roman/Latin influence but amazingly the Romans didn’t bother going into the Basque Country and so their influence never tainted the locals.

  7. LBG says:

    A pleasure to read LB, informative and mention of tapas, as a goody, makes the mouth water.(Don’t get your tapas in Islington. There’s a JC quotient there. Good, simple, tasty tapas is IMO, the best value food in the South East)
    Two challenges to your and VP’s comments. Think Michel will become a formidable manager in the New World ( perhaps it was a little early for him now). Although the French League is weaker than most ( not Scotland) PSG did the Treble and you have to win it to get the trophies, and Manshitty recently saw not all French teams lie down and die.

  8. LBG says:

    No! I’m not one of those poor quality comedians on a bicycle……..a foody, ffs.

  9. LB says:

    To me potential great managers are like potential great players. Emile Smith Rowe (Lab) could become a great player; Arteta could become a great manager but who really knows until it happens.

    Just realised…….Arteta is also a Basque name and as such will almost certainly have a very simple meaning. My guess would be – He of perfect hair.

  10. chas says:

    Arteta Surname meaning

    A surname of Basque origin, meaning ‘evergreen oaks’ or ‘lego hair’

  11. chas says:

    mark taylor @MarkTaylor0

    Teams will have 31 different 8 game sequences from now until May. Based on expected points, #CFC won’t see an easier run of 8 games and #BHAFC won’t see a more difficult one. Ranked strength of schedule over the first 8 #PremierLeague matches.

  12. mickydidit89 says:


    I enjoyed that read more than any other for a long, long time. Top draw on the originality, knowledge/research.

    Really fabulous job, LB

    Thank you very much

  13. mickydidit89 says:


    I’m sure I mentioned once before that I read a book called The Basque History of The World

    I have it in front of me, and while it was years ago that I read it, I do remember the section about the origins of their language

    It is incredibly strange and an unresolved mystery. It has similarities with Native American and Japanese!!!! Oh, and a bit of Hungarian.

    An anthropological maze of intrigue 🙂

  14. mickydidit89 says:

    Mmm, book was penned in 1999, so maybe the mystery has been solved

  15. mickydidit89 says:

    Thanks also for the fine research. Interesting stuff

  16. GunnerN5 says:

    Thank you for a very entertaining post LB, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us here on AA.

    So if I’ve got it right Unai Emery is a nit picking micro manager who has a dyed mop of black greased back hair which is only exceeded by his cheap ill fitting clothing – but it looks like he will be a great success at Arsenal.

    Seriously – thank you for the post.

    Reading your post it struck me that Unai has made such a positive impression on me that I have not missed AW.

  17. Big Raddy says:

    Quality read LB. Two sharp stones 😀

  18. LBG says:

    Chas 10.18, one from your own private collection, obviously!?
    What about this astonishing statistic:
    -Minutes played this season without Terrier 442. During these mins Arse scored 9, conceded 10.
    – Minutes played with Terrier 548. During these mins Arse scored 20, conceded 3.

    Please, please St Dennis, protect our Terrier on his flights around the world and especially on the football pitch. May you wrap him in bubble wrap and return him undamaged. Amen

  19. mickydidit89 says:

    Agreed Erik, two sharp stones is priceless

    ps I don’t think he dyes his hair. I,ve been to the basque country and noted how many men of the Celtic Nations have black hair, hook noses and a generally rugged face. You see ’em in Cornwall, Brttany etc

    There was definately mating going on between those seafaring nations

  20. GunnerN5 says:

    Strange thought – Cornish women being in-Basquenated.

  21. chas says:

    Even Arsene was looking for signs of the use of Just For Men.

  22. LB says:

    And there was me taking a thousand words to describe something that could have been said in forty five 🙂

    “So if I’ve got it right Unai Emery is a nit picking micro manager who has a dyed mop of black greased back hair which is only exceeded by his cheap ill fitting clothing – but it looks like he will be a great success at Arsenal.”

    Yep, that’s about it.

  23. LB says:

    Unai looks pretty good there; French tailoring hmnmm better than the off the peg stuff the club are giving him now.

  24. LB says:

    I know this is going to sound pedantic but the Basque country pre dates anything Celtic by a long, long way, you have to go further along the coast to Galicia to find full on Celtic culture.

    Ok, I will stop now.

  25. Big Raddy says:

    No, keep going.

    It has piqued my interest to the point that I am definitely going to take a trip in Spring to try some pinxos

  26. mickydidit89 says:

    Not pedantic at all, and you’re correct, however, as a Celtic Nation sailors shagged local wenches, and it has been going on for over 2000 years 🙂 🙂

  27. mickydidit89 says:


    I once attended the annual Basque Festival. The year? 1989 🙂

    It was in a French town called Bayonne in Basque Country. Now, that was crazy and the locals (with visitors from all 7 Celtic Nations) go wild for 6 days

    This was in August. Anfield ’89 in the May obviously. Post festival I went hiking in the high Pyrenees and spent one night in the highest refuge.

    Carved into the wooden wall of the bog was “Anfield ’89. Goon to the Moon” 🙂

    Thank you for gogging that particular memory LB

  28. mickydidit89 says:

    “gogging” MIGHT be basque for “jogging”
    who knows?

  29. LB says:


    San Sebastian is a really good town to visit and spring is a very good time to go, not too hot and not too many tourists.

    You don’t need a car but getting there is awkward, not sure how to get there from Copenhagen but from here we would fly into Bilboa.

  30. chas says:

  31. kfdickie says:

    A great read LB, I think maybe we should be issued with LB Luncheon vouchers in Spain now. You really are an expert at getting, Arsenal, food and Spain in one article, and do it very well.

  32. LB says:

    Thanks Kfd

  33. chas says:

  34. chas says:

  35. chas says:

    Ex Arse player?

    No, not Viv Anderson, Micky.


  36. Big Raddy says:

    So who is that?

  37. TotalArsenal says:

    Well written and very entertaining, LB. It reminded me a bit of Cees Noteboom’s travel books about Spain. You are a gem on this site.

  38. chas says:

  39. chas says:

  40. chas says:

    Steam tarred football nets and worsted jerseys.

  41. chas says:

  42. chas says:

  43. chas says:

    The new spud ground is looking nice!

  44. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    6.37 Brilliant. I need this app.

    6.39. We used to go to Gamages on family outings. I think it was near Kings Cross station but this was back in black and white days, so I am not sure.

    Fine night for the kids. Proud to be a Gunner.

  45. Big Raddy says:

    Mr Wreh has spent too much time in Nandos.

  46. chas says:

    That Babel colour guy is a colourisation specialist who takes a few hours for each photo!

    Have you seen this?


  47. chas says:

    Apparently Gamages used to be at Holborn Circus.

  48. mickydidit89 says:

    Morning both

    Love the merchandise pages. Football shirt sizes reflecting an era where they were built for children to play football in 🙂

    Shitballs, is that really the Spud stadium behind the “improvements”

  49. chas says:

    It does look pretty amazing

  50. chas says:

    Here’s the original

  51. LBG says:

    Chas, our Dad swore by Gamages, I remember a number of my early wooden pull alongs being in Gamages boxes.

  52. chas says:

    What’s a wooden pull along?

  53. chas says:

    I found this exchange moving

  54. chas says:

  55. chas says:


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