Unai Emery insists Villarreal have “nothing” to envy of Arsenal as he took a fresh swipe at his former club. The Spaniard was appointed as the La Liga’s new head coach in July, signing a three-year deal at Estadio de la Ceramica.
He had been out of a job for eight months after being sacked by Arsenal the previous November after a 16-month stint in the Emirates hotseat.
The ex-Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain manager has won two, drawn two and lost one of his five matches so far.
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And the three-time Europa League-winning manager’s side are only behind Real Madrid, Real Betis and Real Sociedad in the Spanish top-flight table.
Emery is looking to rebuild his reputation with Villarreal following the downturn in results he suffered with the Gunners.
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Appointed as the replacement for Arsene Wenger in the summer of 2018 after his success with Sevilla, Emery had a first campaign which ended poorly but offered promise.
The north London club reached the Europa League final, only to be hammered by Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea, and finished fifth in the Premier League, just a point behind Tottenham in fourth.
They did lose four of their final seven league games though, to Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester, to give up command in the battle for the final Champions League spot.
Emery’s second season saw him sacked before December following a seven-game winless streak – the club’s longest run without a win since February 1992.
Arsenal sat eight points off the top four and while they ultimately finished a lowly eighth, 10 points off fourth, the dour atmosphere at the club under Emery was deemed irreparable.
And Emery, who has been criticial of the Londoners since his departure, said in an interview with El Periodico Mediterraneo when asked if Villarreal are superior to Arsenal and PSG ‘on the inside’: “Yes, I totally agree.
“But I have the advantage that I was at Valencia and I already knew what Villarreal was doing and felt admiration for their ability to have these facilities and great players.
“They have played important matches and competitions, all with the merit of doing so in a very small town like Vila-Real and with great national and world recognition.
“The media dimension can be favourable or not, it depends on whether things are going well or badly.
“But I think the club has that advantage because it has internal demands and execution capacity without the need to have that external dimension.
“Matters are arranged inside. Villarreal has nothing to envy PSG or Arsenal for.”
Emery’s comments come after he was critical of Arsenal’s board earlier this year, insisting they did not offer him the right amount of support during his tenure.
“I had a decent level, although I needed to improve,” Emery said to The Guardian. “When results are bad it’s not the same. You lack the linguistic depth to explain.
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“And take ‘good ebening’: OK, it’s ‘good evening’, but when I said ‘good ebening’ and won it was fun; when we were losing it was a disgrace.
“The energy slips, things drift; everything does, everyone does. Some support you but you feel the atmosphere, relationships [shift]. And that transmits to the pitch.
“Losing leads against Palace and Wolves reflected our emotional state: we weren’t right. It wasn’t working.
“I told the players: ‘I don’t see the team I want.’ That commitment and unity wasn’t there any more. That’s when I see I’m on my own. The club left me alone, and there was no solution.
“At every club, I’ve been protected: Lorca, Almeria, Valencia, PSG. At Sevilla I had Monchi. At PSG Nasser al-Khelaifi protected me in the dressing room and publicly.
“At Arsenal they weren’t able to, maybe because they came from [Arsene] Wenger, who did everything.
“They’d say: ‘We’re with you’ but in front of fans and the dressing room they couldn’t protect me. Truth is, I felt alone. And the results dictated I had to go.”
Current Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta appeared to take a shot at Emery over the summer, when he spoke about the club he inherited upon his December appointment last year.
In conversation with Arsenal legend Ian Wright for Adidas, Arteta said: “It is happening [the transformation]. Coming into the club in that moment wasn’t easy but you mention a key word which is ‘energy’ and I felt that the energy around the training ground and the stadium wasn’t right for this magnificent club.
“I was here and was lucky to play here so everyone first of all has to feel in that way. There was a lot of disconnection in many areas and I wanted to bring everyone together.
“First of all to make everyone understand how lucky we are to be here and then a very clear direction of where we have to be.”
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