Somewhere a clock is ticking….

Tick tock, tick tock.

Can you hear that? The clock ticking?

Seconds become minutes become hours.

Tick tock, tick tock.

It’s not counting up, it’s counting down.

 

A clock

The clock hangs on the wall of Manuel Llorente’s office. It’s recording the final moments of Unai Emery’s managerial career at CF Valencia.

 

It appears almost certain that the end of this season will see Emery leave Valencia after four seasons in charge. Emery has been under increasing pressure lately. The 3rd place La Liga finish which appeared guaranteed a few moths ago is now under threat with Atletico and Sevilla resurgent recently whilst Malaga must also be considered a viable threat and sit just 1 point behind Valencia.

This, of course, assumes that the plucky challenges of Osasuna and Levante will fade. They may very well remain in contention and go the distance this season. Valencia could quite conceivably still finish in 3rd place comfortably in spite of their form due to the tightly packed table with just 10 points separating 8 teams. Indeed, the topsy turvy nature of La Liga was perhaps epitomised best at the weekend when Malaga, with a run of 5 wins in their previous 7 games, had the opportunity to move into 3rd place. They lost 2-0 at home to Betis.

Such good fortune will not be of concern to Valencia fans and will not see Emery find any further favour with them.

Valencia’s recent form has slipped with just 2 wins in the past 8 league games. The promise of early season performances has also evaporated. Successive league defeats to Real Zaragoza and Getafe was followed by a 2-1 loss to AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League. A 1-1 draw at home to rivals Levante followed on Sunday. The draw with Levante represented the 44th time that Valencia has surrendered a lead in a game under Emery.

When you examine what Emery has delivered at the Mestalla and under what conditions, the criticism becomes harder to understand. A 6th place finish after picking up the pieces from the disastrous season under Koeman was followed by two successive 3rd place finishes.

The financial constraints that affect Valencia see Emery wave goodbye to his best players every season and watch as new, cheaper players arrive and the process of building begins once more. Villa, Silva, Mata and Marchena have all departed. In their place the likes of Soldado, Parejo, Piatti and Ruiz have arrived.

And still Emery delivers the coveted 3rd place finish.

 

Unai Emery. A man under pressure

Too good for the rest of the league but unable to compete with the big two, Valencia sit in isolation. But now the 3rd place is under threat.

And legitimate criticism of Emery can be delivered on performance in European competitions.

Losing to Atletico on away goals in the Europa League quarter finals in season 09/10 was a considerable disappointment. A slack 2-2 draw at home enough to see a hugely inconsistent Atleti side under Quique Sanchez Flores progress. This was an opportunity missed.

A similar opportunity, in financial terms at least, occurred in the following season. Valencia were never going to win the Champions League but were poised to progress to the quarter finals of the Champions League, yet somehow crumbled in the second half of the return leg against Schalke. Another lead squandered under Emery.

Another German side, Bayer Leverkusen, pipped Valencia to 2nd spot in the group phase of this season’s Champion’s League. Guess what? Valencia again took the lead away to Leverkusen only to lose 2-1.

This represented another disappointing European campaign but one which could be salvaged by a run in the Europa League.

It started promisingly and Stoke were despatched 2-0 on aggregate. A 5-3 aggregate victory over PSV Eindhoven should have been more comfortable than the score line suggested but Valencia were in the quarter finals. Perhaps performances were on the decline but a trophy was attainable.

 

So what now for Emery?

 

Thursday night will see the arrival of AZ Alkmaar holding a narrow 2-1 lead over Valencia from last week’s first leg in Holland. Win and they progress to the semi finals, the first time Emery has reached this stage of a European competition. Lose and there is only the 3rd place left to pursue.

Does he focus on the Europa League and attempt to win the first trophy of his managerial career, potentially sacrificing a Champions League place for Valencia in doing so? Or does he remain focussed on helping Valencia to finish 3rd for the third consecutive season thereby gaining Champions League football and the much needed income it can deliver as Valencia continue to repay their colossal debt whilst trying to remain competitive on the pitch?

 

Only the continuation of the current poor form would see Emery depart before the season ends.

The Mestalla faithful have been restless for a while and the white handkerchiefs are poised to reappear yet again tonight.

The clock is ticking.

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