Unai Emery insists his Villarreal side ‘had to suffer’ in order to beat Europa League favourites Arsenal and reach the club’s first ever European final.
After securing a 2-1 win at home last week, Villarreal just needed to keep a clean sheet to book their spot in the Europa League final with Manchester United.
While Mikel Arteta‘s side struck the post twice and had plenty of chances, Villarreal managed to keep the Gunners at bay and finish the game in a goalless stalemate, leaving the Premier League club’s season in tatters.
Unai Emery says Villarreal ‘had to suffer’ in order to book their spot in the Europa League final
And while Emery got payback after being sacked by the north London club two years ago, he applauded his side’s efforts for remaining focused and getting the job done at the Emirates.
‘I knew the final was in Gdansk but I didn’t want to hear about it,’ Emery said after the game, according to AS.
‘We had a very good qualifying phase and we had to beat a favourite to get to the final, and we had a very serious tie against Arsenal. We knew we’d suffer today, but we’ve managed to have some less tense moments.
‘I’ve tried to enjoy and live these moments. We know that if we scored a goal we’d be safe but if not, we’d suffer.
Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post twice against the Spanish outfit
A 0-0 draw with Villarreal means Arsenal face a first campaign without Europe for 25 years
‘They’ve had tight matches at home, so we had to play a serious match so that their virtues wouldn’t appear. That’s the toughest job in football.’
‘I am satisfied and proud,’ Emery added.
‘Satisfied with the job that we have done and proud of the project that we have here at Villarreal.
‘The president had been here for over 20 years, they have been in the Champions League semi-finals, three Europa League semi-finals but lacking that final step.
‘I think we are going to be up against the favourites in Manchester United and they have shown their potential throughout the campaign in this competition.
‘However, we have knocked out one of the teams that was one of the favourites, we are aware of how difficult it is going to be but we are proud to prepare and compete in that kind of game.
Emery had a turbulent spell in charge of the Gunners before being sacked in November 2019
‘Manchester United are a great side and we are going to have to work hard to nullify some of their strengths.’
Emery’s successor Arteta insists he is still the man to lead Arsenal back to glory despite the club now facing a first season without European football in 25 years, with the club currently ninth in the table.
Emery won the Europa League three times as Sevilla manager and took Arsenal to the final in 2019, where they lost to Chelsea.
Manchester United will be waiting for Emery’s Villarreal this time around as Arsenal’s exit prevented both Europa League and Champions League finals from being all-English affairs.
Mikel Arteta says he is the man to lead Arsenal despite failing to reach the Europa League final
With Arsenal also on course for their worst league finish since 1995-96, Arteta is coming under pressure from some sections of supporters – despite winning the FA Cup last year.
Asked if he still had faith in his own ability to do the job, he simply replied: ‘Yes.’
Pushed on whether he felt his position is under threat, Arteta added: ‘I think everybody’s job is under scrutiny.’
He also said he ‘wouldn’t be sitting here’ if he did not think he could pick his players up and stressed: ‘You will see it. It is not about talking, it is about showing it on the pitch.’