Unai Emery has called on Arsenal to remain steadfast in their “perfect marriage” to Mikel Arteta, even as he aims to prepare for his former club’s fall to the Europa League.
Emery led Villarreal to the semi-finals of the competition this season, setting up a clash against the club which sacked him in November 2019.
The Spaniard left Emirates Stadium after 18 months at the helm, with the club winning 49% of their 51 Premier League games at the helm.
He led the Gunners to the Europa League final in his full lone season – they lost 4-1 to London rivals Chelsea in Baku – and admits that a ‘little piece of his heart’ still belongs to Arsenal , as well as the other teams he coached during his career.
“It’s a closed stage and I have nothing but gratitude for working there,” Emery said of his time at Arsenal.
“It’s just one more process in my career and I keep the good things that have helped me. Now I am very happy at Villarreal to try to bring my knowledge, as I did at the time with Arsenal.
“For all the teams I’ve been in, I have my little corner in my heart for them. But now he’s yellow and 100% for this club.
– Villarreal CF English (@Eng_Villarreal) April 28, 2021
Arteta was named Emery’s replacement and although they did well in Europe in his first full campaign, domestic results continued to be disappointing.
Arsenal have only won two of their previous eight outings in all competitions heading into Thursday’s game at Estadio de la Ceramica and sit 10th in the English table, meaning the two-legged draw with Villarreal is crucial for their hopes of getting a return. in the Champions League next season.
Still, Arteta’s predecessor made it clear the importance of having enough time to turn around the fortunes of a ‘big club’ – something he was not given in the role.
“The Premier League is difficult. Arsenal’s situation is natural and there were certain circumstances after Wenger’s time. We fought for the Champions League and we reached the final of the Europa League, ”Emery told the media.
“Arteta’s work takes time, you have to be patient, have confidence and be sure that the club will find its usual place. It takes time, but I think they will get there. “
He added: “You can’t say more that it’s a great club, in terms of history and in the present. Arteta has a perfect marriage with the club since he was a beloved player there.
“You see a team with a clear identity, with a very ‘Arsenal’ idea. There are some important players, some with great experience and others who are quality young players when they get the chance.
“We are working to see how to counter them with different plans for the game.”
Three-time winner of the competition while at the helm of Sevilla, Emery will aim to guide Villarreal to a first major European final in club history.
However, they have failed to beat Arsenal in four previous encounters in Europe, including in both games of their Champions League semi-final in 2006.