Unai Emery claims Arsenal are favorites to reach the Europa League final despite Villarreal’s first leg loss as he insists Mikel Arteta’s side are ‘one or two notches above’ on the eve of his return to London.
- Unai Emery claims Arsenal remains the favorite to reach the Europa League final
- Emery’s Villarreal has a slim first leg advantage from Mikel Arteta’s Gunners
- However, the Spaniard says his old side is “one or two notches” above Villarreal
- Emery also warned his players of the threat from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Unai Emery insists Arsenal remain the favorites to reach the Europa League final, despite losing the first leg of their semi-final to Villarreal.
Emery, fired as Arsenal manager in November 2019, returns to the Emirates for the first time on Thursday with his new club, leading 2-1 after last week’s win over The Gunners in Spain.
But Emery said: ‘I don’t think the result of the first leg will change the way I see the first race. Arsenal started out as favorites and are still favorites at this stage.
Unai Emery claims Arsenal remains the favorite to reach the Europa League final
Emery’s Villarreal is slightly ahead of the Gunners on their way to Thursday’s second leg
‘We are candidates to play against these types of teams and we will try to compete against these types of teams, those favorite teams, but the result in the first leg is very narrow to change anything.
‘Why? Because of the history, because of the present, because of the power and the level of the budget to the players they have in this squad. I consider them favorites.
‘We are the underdogs, but our team is recognized in Europe. We have a certain recognition and have shown our level for years.
However, former Gunners boss Emery says Arsenal is ‘one or two notches above’ Villarreal
‘We played a semi-final of the Champions League. We are a solid team with the ability to reach these heights, but I now think Arsenal is one or two notches above us in that regard. ‘
Arsenal is boosted by the return to full fitness of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who appeared from the bench last week after recovering from malaria.
Emery has fond memories of Aubameyang, who scored a hat-trick against Valencia two years ago to inspire Arsenal to the Europa League semi-finals.
Emery said, ‘Aubameyang is a murderer. He was, he is and he always will be. He’s been through a process of being out of the team because of the illness he had, but he’s back.
Emery warned that it would be difficult for his side to stop ‘killer’ Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang is there to work, to defend the team, to give everything for the team and to hope that he can perform at the top level for the team and when that happens it will be very difficult to quit.
‘We expect to find the best Aubameyang. I think he’s a great person and behind that great person a great football player.
‘I think he was one of the Premier League’s top scorers when I was there or the top scorer. He has shown a great performance, he is very good physically. He’s a murderer. ‘