On Thursday, April 29, 2021, Unai Emery had the opportunity to face his former club Arsenal for the first time since the Premier League club sacked him in 2019 and the Spanish tactician gave Arsenal’s fans something to remember him for.
Recall that the 49-year-old Spanish coach became the coach of Arsenal in 2018. During the first half of the 2019-2020 season, Unai Emery struggled with the team so badly that he had to be forced out of the club.
Immediately after his departure, his countryman and a former player of the club, Mikel Arteta was appointed to replace him. Ever since then, Emery did not have the opportunity of facing Arsenal in any competition.
During the 2020-2021 season, Unai Emery became the coach of a Spanish side, Villarreal after almost a year without a job. One of the reasons why he was appointed was to win major titles for the club.
Unfortunately for the Spanish coach, the club is not contending for any domestic title this season. The only opportunity the club has to win a title is in the Europa League.
On Thursday, April 29, Unai Emery faced his successor at Arsenal, Mikel Arteta in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final round. As least expected, Emery was able to set up Villarreal in such a way that they defeated Arsenal 2-1.
Though most fans of the Premier League club are celebrating the club’s away goal, Villarreal’s 2-1 win over Arsenal is a big statement that the Spanish coach was not as bad as most Arsenal’s fans perceived him to be while at the Premier League club.
After the game, the coach of Arsenal, Arteta, admitted that his team suffered at the hands of Villarreal because his team was not properly organized.
Arteta whose team played most parts of the first half with 10-men admitted that there were different halves in the game.
“We didn’t want to come here and lose obviously but the way the game developed, being 2-0 down and with 10 men, it’s probably the best result we could have,” Arteta told BT Sport.
“They were two different halves. We started to be us. In the first half, there were so many moments that we weren’t us. We weren’t clear with our high press, we were disorganized, we were not precise with the ball and we didn’t have enough control.
“We didn’t have enough threat or desire to attack the box but in the second half, it was completely different.
“We are very used to that (Bukayo Saka playing well) this season, but it tells us we need to do much more as we cannot always rely on him.
“Bernd Leno was very good, at 2-0, the chance with Gerard Moreno, he saved us, and at the end, we had a big chance with Auba to draw the game.
“I am confident, we have a chance to win [the tie], that’s for sure.”
While Unai Emery said: “In the second half, we started at the beginning with a little more defensively because they pushed it on us but after, we had chances to score the third goal and that is our plan.
“Then the two expulsions changed the match, but the penalty is not a penalty. I think we deserved this victory and we deserved to do it with more difference [of goals], but we play there again with the same plan, thinking of the control and to play with our personality and to show how we can play and take the performances into the second leg.”
On May 6, 2021, Unai Emery will stage a return to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since he left the club in 2019. On the said date, Arsenal would attempt to turn the tie around by beating Villarreal at least 1-0 to qualify for the final of the competition on away goal rule.