Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery believes his successor Mikel Arteta is bringing the ‘tradition’ back to the Emirates Stadium.
And while some managers might have some choice words to say about their successor, Emery is actually a big fan of Arteta, the man he will go up against on Thursday evening in the first of two Europa League final semi-final legs between Arsenal and Villarreal.
“Mikel 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,” he told UEFA.
“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.”
Speaking about the clash with Arsenal, Emery highlighted his former club’s quality, but he is determined to get Villarreal to the final.
“When Arsenal are in form, they are a top team,” he added.
“We’ve seen that this season. But so are we when we find our form.
“So in terms of confidence, the demands, the respect we have for the opponent, this semi-final will be full of tension and both teams will do their utmost to get through, which is what makes this competition such a great one.
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“I want to win for myself and for Villarreal. [Two years ago] I was defending Arsenal’s red [and white] colours in that final against Chelsea, now I feel that affinity for the yellow of Villarreal.
“I have that competitive instinct, that responsibility I owe the club and everyone I represent with my decisions. I did that proudly when I was at Arsenal, now I’ll do that at Villarreal.
“I will have to put aside my feelings for Arsenal, and I will have to put all my energies into making sure that the Yellow Submarine gets the upper hand in the tie.”