Arsenal and Mikel Arteta are ‘a good marriage’, says Unai Emery… as Villarreal boss insists he has ‘good memories’ from difficult 18-month spell in England as he gets set to face his former side this week
- Unai Emery believes Mikel Arteta is in a good position to be a success at Arsenal
- The Villarreal boss welcomes his former side to Spain in the Europa League
- Emery insists he has positive memories from his 18 months in charge of Gunners
- Spaniard gave Bukayo Saka his Arsenal debut and he praised the teenager’s form
Unai Emery believes his replacement as Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is a good fit for the north London club.
The two managers will face off on Thursday night when Emery welcomes his former side to Spain for the first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash with Villarreal.
Speaking ahead of the match, he was full of praise for his successor and feels Arteta’s history as a player at Arsenal is a big advantage.
Unai Emery’s Villarreal side host Arsenal in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final tie
The Spaniard believes Mikel Arteta is a good fit to be the Arsenal boss and can be a success
‘Arteta is putting his own stamp on things – in the way they play, it’s easy to identify he’s bringing back that Arsenal tradition of playing attractive football,’ Emery said.
‘His first steps as Pep Guardiola’s assistant have helped him to position himself in this new profession which is being the manager.
‘Now he has been given this opportunity at Arsenal, and I think it’s a good place to develop because he is much loved by Arsenal thanks to the time he spent in the team.
‘He had his time [playing] there with Arsene Wenger so I’m sure he can apply everything he learned. I think it’s a good marriage: Arteta-Arsenal, Arsenal-Arteta.’
Emery feels Arteta’s history as a player with the club has helped the fans to warm to him
Emery spent just 18 months at the helm in north London, narrowly missing out on the top four by a point in his only full season and losing heavily in the Europa League final to Chelsea.
The 49-year-old insists he has positive memories from his time in England, even if he is disappointed that his spell was ultimately not as successful as he had hoped it would be.
‘Arsenal’s history is renowned throughout the world,’ Emery said. ‘I am lucky enough to have coached over there, although it ended in unwanted circumstances.
‘Now I’m happy where I am and appreciate my new coaching job at Villarreal. I have great memories from my one year and four or five-month stay at Arsenal.
The 49-year-old reached the Europa League final with Arsenal in his one full season in charge
‘We experienced great moments together on the pitch, such as reaching and preparing for the final against Chelsea, and in the day-to-day stuff as well, at the training ground.
‘Those are great memories but now we are on different teams. I want to win for myself and for Villarreal.’
The Spaniard also revealed his admiration for many of the Arsenal players, and reserved particular praise for Bukayo Saka who has been the Gunners’ standout player this season at just 19 years old.
‘There are a lot of players that are still there, players who started their careers with me as their coach,’ Emery said.
‘I always tell this little anecdote about Bukayo Saka. He made his [Premier League] debut against Fulham, which I remember we won 4-1. I think it kicked off at 12:30, and he played the last eight to ten minutes and didn’t touch the ball. Now he’s establishing himself at a high level.
Emery gave Bukayo Sakah his Arsenal debut and jokes he has come a long way since that point
‘Many of the players I coached [are still at Arsenal]. I have fond memories of them: Hector Bellerin, [Calum] Chambers, [Rob] Holding: exceptional guys; [Mohamed] Elneny, who is an extraordinary player and an extraordinary person.
‘They have [Alexandre] Lacazette, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, [Gabriel] Martinelli, who is becoming more important now after a serious injury.
‘[Nicolas] Pepe is also an important player, who I think is settling and getting more and more confident. Then you have the younger players such as [Emile] Smith Rowe. Smith Rowe played the pre-season with us at the age of 17, and he has gradually grown after loan spells away.
‘You also have [Bernd] Leno, who is a great goalkeeper and good with his feet. He has significant experience.’
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