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Unai Emery aims subtle dig at Arsenal after his latest Champions League success


Unai Emery has appeared to aim a dig at former club Arsenal after guiding Villarreal to a Champions League quarter-final first-leg win over Bayern Munich.

Arnaut Danjuma’s early goal gave the Yellow Submarine a historic first-leg victory over Bayern on Wednesday night in a game in which the Spanish side, the huge underdogs for the tie, thoroughly deserved to win. Former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin had a goal disallowed for a tight offside call before the break, while Villarreal spurned a number of other presentable opportunities.

Spanish sides are once again enjoying strong campaigns in Europe – Europa League holders Villarreal are just one result away from the semi-final while Real Madrid won 3-1 at Chelsea on Wednesday night thanks to Karim Benzema’s devastating hat-trick. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid were edged out 1-0 at Man City in Tuesday night’s last-eight first leg.

Emery managed Arsenal for 18 months and guided them to the Europa League final in 2019, but was sacked in the November of the following campaign following a series of underwhelming results. He subsequently returned to Spanish football the following year when he was appointed at Villarreal, whom he guided to the Europa League crown.

Speaking on Thursday, the coach was asked about the biggest clubs in the world and he reiterated that despite his experience at the Gunners and at PSG, those clubs were not on the same scale as the two giant clubs in Spain. Emery explained on Marca’s radio station: “When I have travelled with Arsenal and PSG, it is difficult to find around the world two teams as much in the focus of football as Real Madrid and Barcelona.”

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Unai Emery is masterminding yet another European run, this time with Villarreal
Unai Emery is masterminding yet another European run, this time with Villarreal

The answer came amid Emery being asked about how La Liga compares to the Premier League in terms of quality: “I don’t know if football people underestimate our league compared to the Premier League. The Premier League is the one with the most income, it is a great league and it gives you the chance to have better players, but the Spanish league has always had more uniformity. We have lost focus with the departure of (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano (Ronaldo) and I think that now we can recover with the ability of Madrid and Barca to bring in great footballers.”

Speaking of his side’s win over Bayern, Emery added: “I’m happy, we need to feel that we already had a presence against this level of opponent and we hae taken one more step against a favourite like Bayern. I’m a bit annoyed that we did not score another goal. We don’t want to stay here; we have real options to be in the semi-finals.”





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