Unai Emery is back and he has a point to prove.
Emery was more of a safe choice than an inspired one at Arsenal and after a strong start which saw him win 32 of his first 50 matches, more than any other manager in the club’s history, things turned sour.
A first season which should have ended well finished in disappointment as Arsenal lost in the final of the Europa League, a competition Emery had won three times in a row with Sevilla, and also missed out on a place in the Champions League.
His grasp of English did not help his cause as he was expected to be the mouthpiece at a club in transition, but by the end he had the fans against him following some strange selections and increasingly negative performances, which ultimately led to his dismissal after a 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Emery has had offers to return sooner, but has waited for the right opportunity. Villarreal suits him for several reasons.
The 48-year-old spent lockdown in Valencia, where he has a family home. Villarreal is close by, just 63 kilometres away by road. That is ideal.
In addition, Villarreal are a well-run club known in Spain for their stability. Emery will have time and space to work at the Estadio de la Ceramica and will be able to do so without the pressure of some of his former teams.
A smaller side than Valencia, Sevilla, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal, Villarreal are a family club and that environment will please Emery after some turbulent times in Paris and London in recent years.
Villarreal finished fifth in LaLiga in 2019/20 after an impressive run under Javi Calleja following the competition’s resumption in June.
That created something of an awkward situation, with president Fernando Roig already having agreed a deal with Emery when Calleja had hoped to continue.
But with the change confirmed, Emery appears a good choice to begin a new project without midfielders Santi Cazorla and also Bruno Soriano, with the former having left to join Al-Sadd and the latter retiring after recently returning from three years on the sidelines.
In Spain, Emery’s stock remains high, but the Basque will also look to rebuild his reputation after his Arsenal move fell flat.
Back in LaLiga and also in the Europa League, Villarreal looks the right place for him to achieve it.