Villarreal boss Unai Emery says Arsenal to need show patience with Mikel Arteta as the two managers prepare to face each other in the first leg of the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday.
Emery was sacked by the Gunners in November 2019 after 18 months in charge, with Arteta taking over a month later on a three-and-a-half-year deal.
“It’s a question of patience. I think it’s a perfect marriage,” Emery said.
“Arteta is a great manager and you can see a clear identity of a gameplan.”
Emery, who was appointed by Villarreal in July 2020, is the most successful manager in Europa League history having won the trophy three times with Sevilla.
The Spanish boss led the Gunners to the final of the competition in May 2019, but they were convincingly beaten 4-1 by London rivals Chelsea in Baku.
Emery lost his job seven months later but Arteta says his predecessor was quick to offer advice when he took up the reins at Emirates Stadium.
“I spoke with him before I took the Arsenal job – he was really helpful,” said Arteta. “He was honest and open with me and I’m very grateful because that’s not common when someone is sacked.
“He did many good things with the club. I don’t know why he was criticised.”
Winning this year’s Europa League is Arsenal’s best chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
In a boost to the Gunners’ attacking options, forwards Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are both in contention for the first leg in Spain.
Aubameyang has been recovering after contracting malaria while on international duty with Gabon, while Lacazette was struggling with a hamstring injury.
Arteta says defender Kieran Tierney has been “working like a beast” since suffering a knee injury against Liverpool on 3 April but is unsure whether the 23-year-old Scotland international will feature.
- Villarreal and Arsenal will play for the fifth time in European competition, with the previous four games taking place in the Champions League (semi-finals in 2005-06 and quarter-finals in 2008-09) – Villarreal are yet to beat the Gunners (D2 L2).
- Arsenal are yet to beat Villarreal away from home, drawing on both previous visits (2006 and 2009).
- Arsenal have reached the semi-finals of European competition for the 10th time (including the Fairs Cup), with the Gunners getting to the last four in three of their four Europa League campaigns.
- Arsenal have only lost one of their previous nine European semi-final first legs (W5 D3), though it was the last time the first leg was an away game, against Manchester United in the Champions League in 2008-09 (1-0).
- Villarreal boss Unai Emery will contest a Europa League semi-final for the sixth time, which will be double that of any other coach in the competition (since the 2009 rebrand). Emery has progressed from each of his previous four such ties, including with Arsenal in 2018-19.
- Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe has been directly involved in nine goals in the Europa League this season (five goals and four assists), the joint-most of any player – the Frenchman scored in both legs in the last round.
- Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno has either scored or assisted in all six of his Europa League starts this season, netting six goals while assisting another two.