VALENCIA – Unai Emery can boast more European titles as a manager than Arsenal have in their history, and as he closed in on another final he was keen to stress the prestige of silverware as well as the obvious lure of the Champions League.
Emery has conceded that his team cannot finish in the top four of the Premier League, but returns to Valencia with a 3-1 lead from the Europa League semi-final first leg and an eye on glory in Baku.
“Arsenal only have two European titles in their history and neither of them exist any more,” said the 47-year-old Spaniard, with a nod towards the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1994 and the Fairs Cup in 1970.
“So I have a lot of ambition to win a title. It is an attractive title – and it is getting more attractive. It has grown.
“We have seen Manchester United and Atletico Madrid win it, and a final with Sevilla against Liverpool. It is a title they all want to win.”
Emery won a hat trick of Europa Leagues as manager of Sevilla, and on his way to his first in 2014, won a dramatic semi-final in Valencia.
Sevilla won the first leg 2-0 but trailed 3-0 in the Mestalla, until they snatched a 94th-minute goal by Stephane Mbia which secured their progress on away goals.
Emery’s touchline celebrations did not endear him to fans of Valencia where he was in charge for four years – and they have never quite forgiven him.
“When I was here at Valencia the primary objective was to get a Champions League place,” said the Arsenal boss last night.
“But when I went to Sevilla, the president Jose Maria del Nido said, ‘Have you been in a final?’ I said no. He said: ‘You will see what that is like’.
“At Sevilla, that was what motivated us, what mobilised the people. That feeling of being about to play in a final. For Sevilla, that was bigger than getting a Champions League place.
“I feel pleased to have achieved the objective at Valencia – a Champions League place – and at Sevilla, which was to win titles.
“I feel privileged to have done both, and at Arsenal I want to bring all of that. At a club like Arsenal, titles have to be objectives.”
Emery will be braced for a fierce contest against a team who warmed up by smashing six past Huesca on Sunday.
🏟 The Mestalla— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 9, 2019
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Behind the scenes at yesterday's session 👇
Marcelino Garcia Toral has restored stability to Valencia with fast, attacking football and they will recall Arsenal’s last visit in 2001 when Arsene Wenger’s team blew a first-leg lead to lose a Champions League quarter-final on away goals.
“I have good memories here,” said Emery.
“It is awesome to return with the chance to reach the final – although I would prefer to play the final against Valencia. We want to play in matches like this, and I will transmit this feeling to my players.
“We are finished in the Premier League, but we have a possibility in this competition.”