Unai Emery’s time at Arsenal was not a particularly successful one, with the coach failing to win a trophy, failing to qualify for the Champions League and ultimately getting sacked after just 18 months in charge. However, Emery has bounced back at Villarreal, reaching the Europa League final at the expense of his former employers and going on to beat Manchester United on penalties to win the competition.
Guiding Villarreal to their first major trophy caps an impressive return to success for Emery, who has said that he felt issues outside of his control contributed to his Arsenal sacking and comparisons can certainly be drawn to some of the problems current Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has been dealing with this season.
Speaking to Marca in 2020, Emery said he felt undermined by several off-field problems, such as Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac being the victims of an attempted carjacking and Nicolas Pepe’s struggles to make an immediate impact after his £72m move from Lille.
“I am clear about my diagnosis and we did good things there,” Emery said. “I think we had a good first year, leading two competitions well as Europa League and Premier League.
“The process was good. When we played possession, we did it; when we had to press, we did it. And we were competitive, playing as the game required.
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“This second year, we have not played well, we have not defended well, we have not been competitive. I told the players myself. There were several problems: four captains, the Ozil-Kolasinac case, Pepe’s signing, who needs time since he came from France.
“We didn’t play well, that’s for sure. We had bad results, there was no improvement, the fans focused on me and they threw me out. With my departure, the hostile atmosphere was relaxed.”
During Arteta’s reign, he has had to deal with similar problems.
In the same way that Emery felt Pepe’s struggles made things difficult for him, Arteta has had to contend with Willian’s failure to hit the ground running.
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The 32-year-old was signed on a free transfer from Chelsea, putting pen to paper on a lucrative three-year contract.
However, he managed just one Premier League goal all season and Arteta stated in February that criticism of Willian was not “unfair”.
Arteta also recently claimed that some people “inside” the club were “trying to hurt” them this season.
Speaking earlier this month, Arteta said: “The best thing [about this season] has been to keep a team, a staff, employees and everybody together.
“In those circumstances when you are not winning and when there are so many people, some inside and some outside that are trying to hurt [you].
“And to keep them together and block that and be so strong, I think that is some achievement. As normally when that happens, that cracks and everything falls and it didn’t.”
Despite Arsenal’s poor season, Arteta remains confident that the club is heading in the right direction with him at the helm.
And he can draw confidence from Emery’s success at Villarreal as it shows that Arsenal’s current struggles aren’t necessarily a true reflection of his managerial ability.