A week is a long time in football. So often you hear managers lament a team’s lacklustre performance one week then praise their teams work-rate and ability the next or vice-versa. Weird things can happen between matches.
And so they must have for Unai Emery and his PSG players as they surrendered a 4-0 aggregate win from the first leg of the their last 16 clash with Barcelona. 6-1 was the incredible scoreline in a remarkable night at the Nou Camp with decisive goals scored in the last seven minutes. (Neymar (88′ minutes, 90’+1 minutes pen), Sergi (90’+5))
In an incredible night Barcelona won 6-5 on aggregate after being 5-3 down in the 88th minute. Incredible scenes in one of the game’s great arenas.
But what will this all mean for Luis Enrique and Unai Emery?
Prior to the 4-0 win at the Parc de Princes, example criticisms of Emery in the French press often pointed to an unwillingness to adapt tactics during matches and an unwillingness to make early substitutions. However, the tactically flawless and superb performance in the win over Barca had critics raving, and rightly so. It was one of the greatest European performances in PSG’s history. An enthused support, a confident squad and an until now insurmountable Champions League lead marched forth to the Nou Camp.
For Enrique, a different scenario. Following the 4-0 defeat the writing was on the wall for the Barca boss and following a 6-1 thrashing of Sporting Gijon he announced that the end of season would herald his departure from the Nou Camp hot-seat.
Despite seven trophies in his first two seasons in charge there was still something that just kept the media and fans from fully embracing Enrique.
Although a popular ex-player, Enrique focused on just getting on with the job and never really embraced that he had to become the figurehead of the club and cultivate relationships with the media and fans in that his good friend Pep Guardiola had done. Barcelona is at the heart of a culture and identity in Catalonia. Perhaps Enrique never fully understood the club’s place in that sense of identity.
Indeed, his playing style had also been source of frustration for some of the club’s supporters. Immersed in appreciation for the art of overwhelming possession. A style they were accustomed to, they were concerned at Enrique’s embrace of a more direct style. A direct style however, which had seen them move top of the league ahead of Real Madrid on the evening of his announcement to depart.
Undoubtedly now there will be renewed pressure from those amongst the French media who already have a critical opinion of Unai Emery. He will be seen as having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and this most unlikely of Champions League exits will unquestionably be met with extreme disappointment and likely some anger too from the club’s mega-rich owners.
For Enrique, it can surely only increase his stock as he moves on to pastures new in the summer. One has to imagine that with the Arsenal job looking an ever increasingly likely vacancy for next season the power-brokers at the Emirates Arena will have taken note of the incredible comeback on what will be considered a historic night at the Nou Camp.
But we must remember that a week is indeed a long time in football.