The Arsenal boss will square off with the man he replaced at Emirates Stadium in the competition’s semi-final
Mikel Arteta has called Villarreal head coach Unai Emery “the most successful manager” left in the Europa League in a show of respect for Arsenal’s semi-final opponent and the man who came before him.
The Gunners, who were led by Emery before Freddie Ljungberg’s interim reign and Arteta’s arrival, advanced past the quarter-final with a 4-0 second-leg romp over Slavia Prague that clinched a 5-1 win on aggregate. Villarreal, meanwhile, dispatched Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 on aggregate.
Just like his predecessor, Arteta has often felt the heat from critics for his squad’s performance level, as Arsenal have slumped to ninth in the Premier League this year. His domestic struggles will make the clash with Emery’s Villarreal all the more important, with the Europa League representing the only feasible path to the 2021-22 Champions League left for the Gunners.
What has been said?
“It will be really tough and Unai Emery is probably the most successful manager in this competition,” Arteta told BT Sport.
“There is still a lot to do and things we can improve on, but we have a real desire to improve and be better every day.
“We started really well in a convincing way, aggressive in our high press. We looked a threat all the time. I really like the reaction of the team to the goal being disallowed. We scored some great goals, The clean sheet is important as well, the second one in two games.
“It helped the way we played against Sheffield United. The players were in high confidence, when performances are so high the collective improves. The boys were really at it from the start.
“It is a really important win in a crucial moment. We won in a convincing way, so credit to the players.”
Emery vs Arteta
Emery won 25 of his 51 Premier League matches in charge of Arsenal with a goal differential of +21. Arteta has managed the exact same number of domestic games, winning 22 of them with a goal differential of +19.
Emery was unable to deliver a single piece of silverware during his 18-month tenure at Emirates Stadium, but the current Gunners boss, working in his first-ever job as a top-flight manager, has already delivered FA Cup and Community Shield successes since replacing a fellow Spaniard in December 2019.