After Arsenal’s 5-1 aggregate win over Slavia Prague, Mikel Arteta was rewarded with a tie against the man he replaced, so how does he feel about facing Unai Emery?
When it comes to the Europa League, Unai Emery is its king and Mikel Arteta but a mere apprentice. Still, it is the youngster who will lead Arsenal against the manager who could neither win over Arsenal fans on the pitch nor off it.
The two have not dissimilar records at Arsenal, but it is Arteta the person that sees him given time and patience that was not afforded to Emery when he arrived to do the impossible and try to replace Arsene Wenger.
So how does Arteta feel about facing Emery?
“It will be a tough game,” Arteta said diplomatically after the win vs Slavia Prague. “Villarreal are a tough side and Unai Emery is the most successful manager in this competition. We’re going to enjoy tonight and we know we’re going to have time to prepare for that one. There’s no time to prepare for Fulham on Sunday but this is where we are.”
Unsurprisingly, Emery was also asked about what it will be like to face Arsenal.
“We are happy. It was a challenge, but the trajectory in the Europa League is being very serious and we are responding at a higher level every time,” Emery said via Marca. “We have taken the game where we feel more comfortable. We have [managed] it both here and in Zagreb.
“It is a challenge, something that Villarreal has already done. Breaking the barrier of the semi-finals is the great challenge. The idea of reaching the Champions League through the Europa League is very important.
“When I signed here this was [part of the process]. You have to live each moment. We are receiving people’s dream. The dream increases. My past at Arsenal is less important.”
He added, “We want to continue to play our way, always respecting our rival and not speculating anything. We need to play to win and go into the match with the same sincerity that we’re currently showing. Play the same way and don’t give them chances.”