The Villarreal manager, who is about to face his former employers, believes positive progress can be made in north London after recent struggles
Unai Emery considers Mikel Arteta and Arsenal to be a “good marriage” with the former Gunners boss claiming to look back fondly on his time at Emirates Stadium despite being ushered through the exits as a fellow Spaniard took his place.
The north London heavyweights made the change in their dugout in November 2019, with the gamble taken on Emery to succeed Arsene Wenger written off after just 18 months.
Former club captain Arteta left Pep Guardiola’s side at Manchester City, and FA Cup glory has been enjoyed alongside a run to this season’s Europa League semi-finals.
What has been side?
Arsenal are set to meet Emery and his Villarreal side in the last-four of continental competition, with a man who knows the Gunners well claiming to see signs of progress despite more struggles for consistency in 2020-21.
Emery told UEFA’s official website: “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.
“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’s record at Arsenal
The Spaniard did guide the Gunners to the Europa League final during his time in England, only to suffer defeat against domestic rivals Chelsea.
He was backed with big money in the transfer market, but failed to deliver on expectations and departed after 43 wins, 16 draws and 19 defeats from 78 games at the helm.
Reflecting on his time with the Gunners, Emery added: “Arsenal’s history is renowned throughout the world. 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. 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.
“There are a lot of players that are still there, players who started their careers with me as their coach. 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.
“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.”