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Unai Emery insists Mikel Arteta and Arsenal are the “perfect marriage” despite reports emerging that the club’s board are unhappy with the Spaniard and are looking at Roma’s Paulo Fonseca as a potential replacement.
The Gunners sit 10th in the Premier League table after 33 matches but can rescue their stuttering campaign via the Europa League, knowing that winning the competition would put them back into the Champions League.
Arsenal face former manager Emery and his Villarreal side, sat seventh in La Liga, in the first leg of their semi-final showdown at the Emirates on Thursday (8pm).
While the north Londoners have struggled to kick on in Arteta’s first full campaign, having won the FA Cup last term, Emery has no doubts about his successor’s abilities.
“At a club level everybody knows it’s a great club and as for the technical staff with Mikel Arteta I think it’s a perfect marriage,” Emery said.
“Arteta is a great manager and you can see a clear identity of their game plan in the way they play.
“I’m sure they will have grown and Arsenal will have been able to grow with Arteta. They have very important footballers that have a lot of experience but it’s a club that always brings up young players.
“The minute you give those young players opportunity they show tremendous quality.
“They have a very marked identity and they show a lot of progress with Arteta. They have top quality players, [Dani] Ceballos, [Martin] Odegaard, [Bukayo] Saka, quick players [Pierre-Emile] Aubameyang, Bukayo, [Gabriel] Martinelli.
“They have a very solid defensive structure. They can do a passing structure. It’s going to be a very tough match.”
Tuttomercatoweb claim the Arsenal hierarchy aren’t satisfied with Arteta’s work with Roma’s Fonseca in the frame as a potential replacement should they opt to sack the 39-year-old former midfielder.
But Emery is in full support of his countryman and revealed he held a phone call with Arteta before he took the Arsenal job, his first in senior management having previously been Pep Guardiola’s No 2 at Manchester City.
Villarreal manager Emery continued: “It was a common friend that interceded and he was OK to speak to me, had nothing against it and it was good for me too as I had to leave my home in London.
“Maybe the house would be interesting for him, so maybe he would be interested to see the house?
“So apart from talking about my job at Arsenal and football I suggested he take over my house, finally I think it was a player who took it in the end.
“It all came about via a common friend, he spoke to me and to him and the conservation was as a result of that.
“It was a private conversation but it’s OK that it is public the fact that there was a call between him and me.
“We spoke a little bit about what I lived in Arsenal, in a positive way, as I experienced. I just told him about what I had lived through, as two working colleagues.
“Of course I knew Arteta before. He is from Donostia [San Sebastian] – just like me. We were practically neighbours so I have a lot of admiration for him as a footballer and now as a coach, working with Guardiola and Arsenal.
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“Since I left Arsenal I like to see what the new coaches who come to the team bring. I usually watch Arsenal games from a positive perspective.
“Arteta is more or less the same. I just wanted to tell him about my experience there, where I lived when I was there, what I thought could be positive for him.
“Maybe I told him one or two things that could be improved in a naturalistic and personal way. All I feel for him is admiration.”
Arteta meanwhile thinks club owner Stan Kroenke can win over the angry Arsenal fanbase who protested against the American last week following his involvement in the controversial European Super League.
The Gunners boss said: “If we all feel that that [regular contact] is necessary and that would be helpful, I’m sure they would do anything it takes to bring the fans closer to them.
“If they [the fans] get the opportunity to know them [the Kroenkes], I think most of them would be surprised. And if that is the case, I think that will benefit everybody at the football club.
“It will benefit the fans and bring a lot of clarity. If there is a way to do that and it is going to be helpful, let’s do it, if that is what is necessary.”
Prospective new owner Daniel Ek, the £3.4billion CEO and co-founder of Spotify who is also a lifelong Arsenal fan, told CNBC about his bid to buy the club: “I’m very serious.
“I have secured the funds for it and I want to bring what I think is a very compelling offer to the owners and I hope they hear me out.
“I certainly didn’t expect this would happen overnight and I’m prepared that this could be a long journey.
“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since I was eight. Arsenal is my team, I love the history, I love the players and of course I love the fans.
“So, as I look at that I just see a tremendous opportunity to set a real ambition for the club to bring it back to its glory.”
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