Unai Emery insists Arsenal remain the favourites to reach the Europa League final as he prepares to return to the Emirates Stadium with Villarreal.

Former Arsenal boss Emery holds a 2-1 lead over his old club in the semi-final tie going into Thursday's second leg.

Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol had given Villarreal a two-goal lead in the first leg and the Gunners looked doomed when Dani Ceballos was sent off.

But a controversial penalty that was won by Bukayo Saka and scored by Nicolas Pepe ensures that it is all to play for in the return fixture.

Villarreal have progressed from 15 of their 16 two-legged ties in major European competition when winning the first leg.

But the only exception was against an English club at the same stage of the same competition - in a tie against Liverpool in 2016 - and Emery feels Arsenal are the most likely team to progress.

"The first-leg result doesn’t change my initial thoughts on the competition," Emery said at his pre-match news conference.

"Arsenal started as a favourite and they are still favourites at this stage. The first-leg result is too narrow to make a big difference.

"We have to try to compete with these types of teams.

"When I analyse our opponents, the first thing I do is study them and try to prepare to play against them at their best. 

"Arsenal are structurally solid, they can keep possession, combine well, and have quick and technically-gifted players.

"We are going to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, so we will face the best Arsenal side, both collectively and individually."

Gerard Moreno has either scored or assisted in each of his seven starts in the Europa League this season (six goals and three assists).

Arsenal, who are relying on the Europa League to salvage their campaign, know a place in next season's Champions League is the reward if they win the competition.

They have progressed from each of their last two European knockout ties where they lost the first leg.

And not since 1995-96 have Arsenal failed to qualify for European competition of some sort, with Mikel Arteta acknowledging the importance of keeping that run going in his own pre-match news conference.

While he thinks his side are underdogs, Emery is keen to highlight the significance of this accomplishment.

"It is a very beautiful moment for us," he said.

"We have been working throughout the year trying to build on our confidence, results and objectives, and in the Europa League we’ve had a fairly solid campaign so far.

"We are approaching the game in the same way we did the first leg. 

"We will build on our performance in the previous 90 minutes. We are 2-1 up, but that doesn’t change anything. We are going to try to be ready for whatever lies ahead."

Arsenal have lost just one of their 11 knockout games with Spanish opponents at home, with that loss coming against Barcelona in the Champions League last 16 in February 2016.

Unai Emery saw Villarreal claim a 2-1 advantage over former club Arsenal after an eventful first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash that saw both teams finish with 10 men.

Emery, who was dismissed by the Gunners in November 2019 after a poor run of form, watched on as Villarreal seized control thanks to first-half goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol.

Dani Ceballos' sending off only appeared to strengthen the hosts' hand, but Nicolas Pepe's spot-kick in the 73rd minute breathed fresh life into a contest that looked in danger of getting away from Mikel Arteta's team.

Former Tottenham midfielder Etienne Capoue then also saw red in a tie that is deliciously poised ahead of next week's return meeting.

Villarreal scored with the first effort of the game, Trigueros drilling home after Samuel Chukwueze's jinking run ended with the ball being tackled into his team-mate's path.

Shoddy Arsenal defending saw the lead doubled just prior to the half-hour mark when Gerard Moreno flicked on Dani Parejo's corner for Raul Albiol to volley home from close range.

Juan Foyth was excelling going forward but encountered problems against Pepe defensively and only a VAR check for handball in the build-up saved the defender from a penalty call going against him for a trip in the area.

Arsenal started the second half on the front foot but their outing worsened when Ceballos, already on a yellow card, was dismissed for a late challenge on Parejo.

Bernd Leno was called into action to deny the excellent Moreno and that moment proved even more pivotal when Trigueros clumsily tripped Bukayo Saka, Pepe's penalty sent down the middle and just past Geronimo Rulli.

There was even more room for optimism when Capoue hacked down Saka and was dismissed while leaving the field on a stretcher, but Villarreal clung on for a precious win despite returning captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang testing Rulli deep into added time.

If there was one man Villarreal could rely on, it was him. If there was one man they wanted standing over that penalty, it was him. If there was one man in their squad born for such a situation, it was him.

It is April 25, 2006, the kind of night the Valencian city of Vila-Real has seen few of. It's playing host to a Champions League semi-final just eight years on from seeing its team, Villarreal, earn their first promotion to LaLiga.

Having lost the first leg of the semi 1-0 to Arsenal in London, they have so far failed to find a way to level the tie, despite laying siege to the Gunners' goal.

But with time almost up, they have the perfect opportunity to seize the initiative as a marginal call goes their way: Gael Clichy is deemed, somewhat harshly, to have fouled Jose Mari in the box.

Up steps Juan Roman Riquelme, their undisputed talisman and one of the finest midfielders of his generation. A player possessed with the kind of technical wizardry on the ball that few others are – there's surely only one outcome?

But Riquelme's spot-kick is a poor one, placed to his right and at the perfect height for Jens Lehmann in the Arsenal goal.

The German easily makes the save, and Arsenal – not little Villarreal – are going to their first Champions League final.

They met again in the quarter-finals three years later but the tie was rather more one-sided, Arsenal winning 4-1 on aggregate.

Twelve years on and the Gunners aren't quite the power they once were, and Villarreal are looking to settle a score when they meet in their Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday.

So too is Unai Emery.

A hiding to nothing

Emery's time at Arsenal was probably doomed from the start. Succeeding Arsene Wenger, even with the lack of success towards the end of his tenure, was always going to be a tough ask.

In his second season at the helm, for a while it seemed only a matter of time before he went from Gunner to gonner. He was eventually dismissed on November 29, 2019, and the following month saw Mikel Arteta appointed as his successor.

Though, it's fair to say Arsenal have not seen much of an improvement under Arteta, whose 79 matches in charge is just one more than Emery managed.

Arteta's win percentage of 51 is shy of Emery's 55, while under the latter the Gunners scored 152 (compared to 127). The main difference in the current coach's favour is that they have conceded considerably fewer (80, down from 100), which perhaps is likely linked to the fact Arsenal are less of a threat in attack now.

Emery's Villarreal arguably come into this tie as favourites as well. They boast a better record almost across the board for this season, winning more often (53 per cent to 47), scoring more (87 to 82) and conceding fewer (47 to 54) than the Gunners, and their coach's record in this competition speaks for itself having won it three times with Sevilla, losing just six of 39 games.

If Villarreal can qualify for their first European final, Gerard Moreno will probably have had something to do with it one way or another.

The Spain international is enjoying the best season of his career and is something of a triple-threat.

The key to Emery's revenge plot

Moreno is a clever player. What makes his productivity in front of goal all the more impressive is the fact he's rarely deployed as an out-and-out central striker.

Instead, Moreno prefers to operate from the right, coming inside on to his left foot and occasionally floating around to also maximise his creative talents.

After all, not only is he Villarreal's top scorer with 20 goals this season in LaLiga, he's also laid on the most chances (38) in the Yellow Submarine's squad.

In fact, Lionel Messi (66) is one of only five forwards in LaLiga to play more key passes than the former Espanyol talent.

Moreno's unpredictability is aided by excellent dribbling skills as well, with Messi, Javi Galan and Nabil Fekir the three individuals to better his 62 completed dribbles this term.

Additionally, his success rate is 62.6 per cent – to put that into context, Messi's is 58.6.

Granted, his goalscoring record is slightly skewed by the fact he's scored nine penalties this term, but Messi (25) is the sole LaLiga player outscoring him and he looks set to claim the Zarra award (given to the top-scoring Spaniard) for a second successive season.

His haul of 20 is also an improvement of 2.5 on his expected goals (xG) value as well, evidence that he's putting away more chances than the average player would ordinarily expect.

Moreno has also carried that goalscoring form into the Europa League, where he stands joint second on the list of scorers with six.

The skillset possessed by Villarreal's talisman makes him the ideal player to carry out a number of different roles, but it also means Arsenal have to be alive to the numerous ways he can hurt them: in front of goal, creatively, or with the ball at his feet.

The 29-year-old could have a major role to play for Spain at Euro 2020 at the end of the season. Having a decisive impact for Villarreal in such a big tie may be vital in earning more of Luis Enrique's faith, with La Roja's coach initially taking a little while to warm to him.

But for the moment all the trust he needs is Emery's, and his form this term proves he has the tools to inspire Arsenal's downfall and grasp revenge for the Yellow Submarine and their pilot.

Unai Emery has called on Arsenal to remain faithful in their "perfect marriage" with Mikel Arteta, even though he is aiming to plot his former club's downfall in the Europa League.

Emery has steered Villarreal through to the semi-finals of the competition this season, setting up a clash against the club who sacked him in November 2019.

The Spaniard left Emirates Stadium after 18 months at the helm, the club having won 49 per cent of his 51 Premier League games in charge.

He did lead the Gunners to the Europa League final in his solitary full season in the job – they lost 4-1 to London rivals Chelsea in Baku – and admits a "little corner of his heart" still belongs to Arsenal, as well as the other teams he has coached in his career.

"It is a closed stage and I only have gratitude for having worked there," Emery said of his time at Arsenal.

"It is one more process in my career and I keep the good things that have helped me. Now I am very happy at Villarreal trying to contribute my knowledge, as I did at the time with Arsenal.

"For all the teams I have been at, I have my little corner in my heart for them. But now it is yellow and 100 per cent for this club."

Arteta was appointed as Emery's replacement and while they have done well in Europe in his first full campaign, domestic results have continued to be disappointing.

Arsenal have won just two of their previous eight outings in all competitions ahead of Thursday's game at Estadio de la Ceramica and sit 10th in the English top-flight table, meaning the two-legged tie with Villarreal is crucial to their hopes of securing a return to the Champions League next season.

Still, Arteta's predecessor has made clear the importance of having enough time to turn around the fortunes of a "great club" - something he was not afforded in the role.

"The Premier League is difficult. Arsenal's situation is natural and there were certain circumstances after Wenger's time. We fought for the Champions League and we reached the final of the Europa League," Emery told the media.

"Arteta's work takes time, you have to be patient, trust and sure that the club will find its usual place. That entails time, but I think they will make it."

He added: "You cannot say more than it is a great club, in terms of history and in the present. Arteta has a perfect marriage with the club since he was a beloved player there.

"You see a team with a clear identity, with a very 'Arsenal' idea. There have important players, some with great experience and others who are young players showing quality when given the opportunity.

"We are working to see how to counter them with different plans for the match."

A three-time winner of the competition while in charge of Sevilla, Emery will be aiming to guide Villarreal to a first major European final in the club's history.

However, they have failed to beat Arsenal in four previous meetings in Europe, including in both games of their Champions League semi-final in 2006.

Unai Emery insists facing a former club is nothing new to him as he aims to steer Villarreal to a first European final at the expense of previous employers Arsenal.

Villarreal made it through to the last four of the Europa League thanks to a 3-1 aggregate triumph over Dinamo Zagreb, who were surprise conquerors of Tottenham in the previous round.

After converting a penalty in the first leg to put the LaLiga side in control of the quarter-final tie, Gerard Moreno was on target again in a 2-1 win on Thursday to make it six goals in his past five outings in the competition.

Next up will be Arsenal, a club where Emery spent 18 months in charge. He reached the Europa League final with the Gunners in May 2019 but was sacked before the end of the calendar year.

"First of all, I'm used to meeting former teams so playing Arsenal, where I coached, is nothing new as an experience. We'll face up to it with humility, pride and responsibility," Emery said.

"This is a chance to establish Villarreal on the top rung of European football.

"The key thing is for us to enjoy what we've done so far and enjoy the opportunity to break our record of reaching semi-finals but not then going on to the European finals."

Emery's current side did concede on home soil when Mislav Orsic pulled a goal back in the second half for Dinamo, though Villarreal comfortably held on to seal their progression.

The final margin of victory could easily have been greater, too; the impressive Samuel Chukwueze - who set up the opener for Paco Alcacer - twice hit the post.

"We tried not to lose the ball cheaply to allow Dinamo to counter," Emery said of the performance.

"We tried to be patient and control the game, to prevent Dinamo creating goal chances, and when it was 2-1, you could see what they were made of and how they knocked Tottenham out. 

"Across the two matches, justice was done and we deserved to be in the semi-finals."

The first leg against Arsenal will take place in Spain on April 29, with Emery's Villarreal then visiting Emirates Stadium the following week in the return fixture.

Mikel Arteta was delighted with Arsenal's clinical victory over Slavia Prague but has warned his side face a tough test against former boss Unai Emery's Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals.

The Gunners entered Thursday's quarter-final second leg with the tie delicately poised at 1-1, but they produced one of their best displays under Arteta to win 4-0 at Sinobo Stadium and advance 5-1 on aggregate.

Nicolas Pepe added to his first-leg strike by opening the scoring in the Czech capital, setting Arsenal on their way to a straightforward win as an Alexandre Lacazette penalty and long-range Bukayo Saka strike followed inside the first 24 minutes.

Lacazette rounded off the scoring in the second half to confirm a semi-final tie with Villarreal - 3-1 aggregate winners over Dinamo Zagreb - and a reunion with Emery, who was sacked by Arsenal in November 2019 and replaced by Arteta.

Emery has previously won the Europa League three times with Sevilla, while also losing the 2018-19 final against Chelsea during his time at Arsenal, and Arteta is aware of the size of the task now facing his side over two legs.

"It will be really tough and Unai Emery is probably the most successful manager in this competition," he told BT Sport. "There is still a lot to do and things we can improve on, but we have a real desire to improve and be better every day."

Arsenal are effectively relying on the Europa League to salvage their campaign and secure a place in Europe next season, the Gunners sitting ninth in the Premier League with seven games to play.

Arteta was particularly pleased with the way his side responded to having an Emile Smith Rowe goal chalked off at 0-0 on the day as his side held on for back-to-back clean sheets, and a first shutout in eight European games

"We started really well in a convincing way, aggressive in our high press," he said. "We looked a threat all the time. 

"I really like the reaction of the team to the goal being disallowed. We scored some great goals. The clean sheet is important as well, the second one in two games.

"It helped the way we played against Sheffield United. The players were in high confidence, when performances are so high the collective improves. The boys were really at it from the start.

"It is a really important win in a crucial moment. We won in a convincing way, so credit to the players."

Smith Rowe may have been denied a goal by VAR, but he set up Pepe for the opener - his seventh assist in all competitions this season, which is the joint-most of any Arsenal player alongside Willian.

With his strike later in the first half, meanwhile, Saka became Arsenal's joint-top teenage scorer in major European competition, matching the four goals scored by Charlie George and Ray Kennedy.

"For me it's a joy to watch them play to watch them every day in training," Arteta said at his post-match news conference when asked about the young pair's performance. "The passion and the commitment they have for the club is special.

"I'm really happy with all of the players. We came to a tough place to face a team that hasn't lost at home in almost two years.

"I think when we demanded efficiency from them and today is a good example of the efficiency you need in Europe to win matches."

Saka, who now has seven goals to his name in all competitions this season, added to BT Sport: "It shows everyone how exciting we can be. When we play like this it is so amazing to be involved in. 

"We have a chance of going to the final and winning this competition - now it is up to us. We look forward to the next opponent."

Unai Emery will face former employers Arsenal in the Europa League semi-finals after his Villarreal side eased past Dinamo Zagreb, with a 2-1 result at home clinching a 3-1 aggregate triumph.  

Gerard Moreno's penalty in the first leg gave the LaLiga side a slender advantage and the in-form striker was on target again on Thursday, taking his tally for the season in all competitions to 25.

Paco Alcacer scored the opener as Villarreal made it eight successive wins in the competition - they will host the Gunners in the first leg on April 29, with the return fixture a week later.

Zagreb had stunned Tottenham with a second-leg comeback in the previous round and while Mislav Orsic did pull a goal back, the Croatian champions saw their involvement in the tournament come to an end.

Villarreal had already seen Samuel Chukwueze clatter a left-footed volley against the post before eventually opening the scoring in the 36th minute.

Alcacer rewarded the home team's dominance with a tap-in finish, though the goal was only awarded after the involvement of the video assistant referee as Chukwueze - who squared the ball for his team-mate to score - had initially been ruled offside.

Moreno added a second prior to the half-time interval, quickly reacting to a sharp save by Dinamo goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic to impressively convert the rebound on the turn.

Orsic - Dinamo's hat-trick hero against Spurs - had twice gone close before eventually beating Geronimo Rulli, slotting home on the angle after exchanging passes with Bruno Petkovic.

However, it was Villarreal went the closest to scoring again, Chukwueze striking the woodwork for a second time before Livakovic denied him a goal his performance deserved with a superb save.


What does it mean? Emery gets Gunners reunion

Villarreal have never made it to a final in a major European competition but Emery is the ideal man to see them end that wait.

The Spaniard lifted the Europa League trophy three times while in charge of Sevilla, plus also made the final in 2019 with Arsenal – a game that ended in a 4-1 defeat to London rivals Chelsea in Baku.

Emery was sacked by the Gunners in November of that year following a seven-game winless run. In contrast, he is set to make a return to Emirates Stadium with his current team in fine form.

Dinamo undone by Moreno

Moreno has now scored nine times in his past seven outings, a red-hot run that includes a goal for Spain against Kosovo. Only Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski have been involved in more goals in all competitions in 2021 than the former Espanyol forward (17 goals and six assists) in the top five European leagues.

Chukwueze stars for hosts

Alcacer and Moreno scored but Chukwueze was Villarreal’s star performer. The only thing missing was a goal, though it was not for a lack of trying – he had six shots, albeit only two were on target.

What's next?

Villarreal - who sit seventh in the LaLiga table, just a point behind fifth-placed Real Sociedad - travel to Levante on Sunday, while Dinamo host Istra 1961 in domestic action on the same day.

Unai Emery will face former employers Arsenal in the Europa League semi-finals after his Villarreal side eased past Dinamo Zagreb, with a 2-1 result at home clinching a 3-1 aggregate triumph.  

Gerard Moreno's penalty in the first leg gave the LaLiga side a slender advantage and the in-form striker was on target again on Thursday, taking his tally for the season in all competitions to 25.

Paco Alcacer scored the opener as Villarreal made it eight successive wins in the competition - they will host the Gunners in the first leg on April 29, with the return fixture a week later.

Zagreb had stunned Tottenham with a second-leg comeback in the previous round and while Mislav Orsic did pull a goal back, the Croatian champions saw their involvement in the tournament come to an end.

Villarreal had already seen Samuel Chukwueze clatter a left-footed volley against the post before eventually opening the scoring in the 36th minute.

Alcacer rewarded the home team's dominance with a tap-in finish, though the goal was only awarded after the involvement of the video assistant referee as Chukwueze - who squared the ball for his team-mate to score - had initially been ruled offside.

Moreno added a second prior to the half-time interval, quickly reacting to a sharp save by Dinamo goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic to impressively convert the rebound on the turn.

Orsic - Dinamo's hat-trick hero against Spurs - had twice gone close before eventually beating Geronimo Rulli, slotting home on the angle after exchanging passes with Bruno Petkovic.

However, it was Villarreal went the closest to scoring again, Chukwueze striking the woodwork for a second time before Livakovic denied him a goal his performance deserved with a superb save.


What does it mean? Emery gets Gunners reunion

Villarreal have never made it to a final in a major European competition but Emery is the ideal man to see them end that wait.

The Spaniard lifted the Europa League trophy three times while in charge of Sevilla, plus also made the final in 2019 with Arsenal – a game that ended in a 4-1 defeat to London rivals Chelsea in Baku.

Emery was sacked by the Gunners in November of that year following a seven-game winless run. In contrast, he is set to make a return to Emirates Stadium with his current team in fine form.

Dinamo undone by Moreno

Moreno has now scored nine times in his past seven outings, a red-hot run that includes a goal for Spain against Kosovo. Only Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski have been involved in more goals in all competitions in 2021 than the former Espanyol forward (17 goals and six assists) in the top five European leagues.

Chukwueze stars for hosts

Alcacer and Moreno scored but Chukwueze was Villarreal’s star performer. The only thing missing was a goal, though it was not for a lack of trying – he had six shots, albeit only two were on target.

What's next?

Villarreal - who sit seventh in the LaLiga table, just a point behind fifth-placed Real Sociedad - travel to Levante on Sunday, while Dinamo host Istra 1961 in domestic action on the same day.

With the Premier League back following the international break, all eyes were set to be on the Emirates Stadium for a heavyweight clash between Arsenal and Liverpool.

Or, that's what the nostalgia of the Premier League wanted us to expect – the reality was rather different, as Arsenal's current status as Europa League-hopefuls at best was made brutally clear.

In fact, as it turned out, the day's most-compelling viewing came from elsewhere in London, as Chelsea suffered an abysmal home defeat by West Brom.

In the East Midlands, Manchester City took their customary step closer to the title, while Leeds United came out on top in an all-Yorkshire affair.

We have taken a look at all the best Opta facts from the four games.

Chelsea 2-5 West Brom: Blues bruised by Big Sam's Baggies in momentous defeat

It was a day to forget for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea as their honeymoon period came to a bruising and humiliating end in a 5-2 home defeat by relegation-threated West Brom.

Chelsea did take the lead through Christian Pulisic, his first goal in 21 games across all competitions, but Thiago Silva's red card for two bookings in the 29th minute offered encouragement to West Brom.

Matheus Pereira's first-half stoppage-time brace – the goals separated by just two minutes and 46 seconds – put the Baggies in front, and Callum Robinson got a double of his own in the second period, becoming the first player in Premier League history to score at least twice home and away against Chelsea in a single campaign.

Mason Mount and Mbaye Diagne got the other goals, with Chelsea conceding five times in a home Premier League game for only the second time, the last being against Arsenal in October 2011.

Victory ensured Sam Allardyce became the first manager in Premier League history to win at Stamford Bridge with three clubs, while it was Tuchel's first defeat since replacing Frank Lampard in January.

The hard work starts here.

Leeds United 2-1 Sheffield United: Blades approaching new low

Sheffield United have looked doomed virtually all season – no win over Leeds United at this stage of the season was going to change that.

But in losing at Elland Road, it took them to 24 defeats in the league this term from 30 games – only twice in their entire history have they suffered more losses in a single campaign, 26 in 1975-76 and 2010-11, though on both occasions were from many more matches (42 and 46, respectively).

For Leeds, however, the win saw them complete a league double over their Yorkshire rivals for the first time since 1991-92 when they actually won the top-flight title.

While no one is expecting them to go close to repeating that title feat anytime soon, Saturday's visit of Blades did provide another reminder of the positivity Leeds have brought to the Premier League – it was the fifth time this term they have attempted at least 20 shots (23 this time) in a single game, with only Manchester City doing so more often (six).

Jack Harrison's opener was one of them, with the winger netting his seventh goal of the season to make this his best ever campaign in English football, while Raphinha teed him up to move on to a Leeds-high six assists in the Premier League in 2020-21.

They needed a helping hand, though. The seventh own goal of Phil Jagielka's career – only Richard Dunne (10) has more – proved decisive, making him the oldest outfield player (38 years, 229 days) to score in his own net in the top tier since Stuart Pearce in 2001 (38y, 252d).

Leicester City 0-2 Manchester City: Guardiola has the key to cleansheets

When you think about what Pep Guardiola the coach is associated with, 'tiki-taka', free-scoring teams and ball-playing centre-backs spring to mind immediately.

But now, perhaps we should add defensive solidity to that list?

Granted, Guardiola has coached great teams for the majority of his career, and they wouldn't usually have poor defensive records, but his runaway City side seems arguably one of his shrewdest ever.

After Saturday's 2-0 win at Leicester, who although third in the table were utterly subjugated, City have kept more clean sheets (28) and conceded fewer goals (26) in all competitions than any other side in Europe's top five leagues.

They prevented Leicester from mustering a single first-half shot for the first time in the league since December 2019 (against Liverpool), and the Foxes suffered just their third defeat in their last 17 top-flight outings.

Among the scorers for City was Gabriel Jesus, who continued his remarkable unbeaten run in games he's scored (41 – W39, D2), a record only James Milner (54) and Darius Vassell (46) can better.

It was the fifth league goal Jesus has managed against Leicester, making them his second-favourite opponent after Everton (seven goals against).

However, Sergio Aguero was unable to cross another stadium off his list. He's played four times at the King Power Stadium without scoring – only two other grounds has he a worse goalless record (eight games at Anfield, six at Selhurst Park). Following the announcement of his end-of-season departure, it seems Leicester have largely avoided his wrath.

Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool: Arteta questions mount with his record not standing up to Emery's

Mikel Arteta's 50th Premier League match as Arsenal coach was one to forget – though it feels like we could say the same thing about rather a lot of his previous 49 games.

Brought in as Arsenal attempted a hard restart, ushering in a new 'era' with fresh ideas, Arteta it was hoped would turn the Gunners back into title challengers, but it seems as though they're even further away from that than under much-maligned predecessor Unai Emery.

This was Arteta's 17th Premier League defeat, four more than Emery suffered in his first 50 games, and the game itself suggested there remains a significant gulf between Arsenal and a Liverpool side that is nowhere near what it was last season.

Nevertheless, it is true that Liverpool's issues have mostly been consigned to Anfield recently, with each of their last six league wins – including this one – coming away from home. This is only the second time they've ever achieved such a run, the first recording since 1955.

Perhaps results against Liverpool aren't the best barometer to measure Arsenal against given they've beaten the Reds once in their past 12 Premier League meetings.

But Arsenal appear to be treading water under Arteta, with their points-per-game dropping to 1.3 from 1.7 in his second 25 league matches in charge.

Manchester United will face European debutants Granada in the quarter-finals of the Europa League and cannot now meet Arsenal until the final.

The draw for the last eight on Friday kept the two remaining Premier League giants apart.

United claimed a 1-0 win at Milan on Thursday to advance 2-1 on aggregate and their reward is an apparently kind draw against LaLiga's Granada, winners over Molde.

If United advance, they could have a replay of the 2016-17 final in which they defeated Ajax, who take on Roma for the right to play the Red Devils or Granada.

Ajax were too strong for Young Boys, while Roma dumped out Shakhtar Donetsk.

Arsenal, who knocked out Olympiacos despite losing at home, will be wary of their quarter-final opponents Slavia Prague.

Slavia have already eliminated Leicester City and Rangers, and have now been paired with the 2018-19 finalists, visiting Emirates Stadium before hosting the reverse fixture.

Arsenal's half of the draw is completed by Dinamo Zagreb and Villarreal.

Dinamo defeated Tottenham in a stunning second-leg comeback on Thursday and could get the chance to complete a north London double if they meet the Gunners.

A meeting between Arsenal and Villarreal would also have significance, with the Spanish outfit coached by Unai Emery, Mikel Arteta's predecessor and a three-time Europa League winner with Sevilla.

Emery's men swept aside Dynamo Kiev in the last 16.


Quarter-final draw:

Granada v Manchester United
Arsenal v Slavia Prague
Ajax v Roma
Dinamo Zagreb v Villarreal

Semi-final draw:

Winner of QF 1 v Winner of QF 3
Winner of QF 4 v Winner of QF 2

Unai Emery has blamed bad decisions made by the club for his Arsenal exit and confirmed he favoured a move for Wilfried Zaha over Nicolas Pepe in his final season.

The 49-year-old spent 18 months in charge at Emirates Stadium before being sacked in November 2019 and subsequently replaced by Mikel Arteta.

He guided Arsenal to the Europa League final and a fifth-place finish in the Premier League in what proved to be his only full season in charge.

Arsenal spent a club-record £72million to bring in Pepe from Lille ahead of 2019-20, but Emery felt the Gunners should have instead moved for fellow Ivory Coast international Zaha.

"I usually want to sign first the players I know," he told Football.London. "When we played against Crystal Palace, Zaha showed he was a very good player.

"I also think Nicolas Pepe is a very good player. When you make the decision you have to decide how easy the adaption will be of some players.

"I was thinking the adaption was easier for Zaha because he was playing in the Premier League and you didn't know exactly how fast Nicolas Pepe can adapt to the Premier League because I know you can need some time to adapt.

"I was thinking at this time that the adaption of Zaha was probably easier and faster than Pepe."

Pepe has struggled in his year and a half with Arsenal, scoring and assisting a combined 13 goals in 42 Premier League appearances.

That compares to 17 goal involvements for Zaha across the same period in 11 more games, while the Palace winger also completes more dribbles per 90 minutes (3.68 compared to 2.92) and plays more passes into the final third (2.2 to 2).

Pepe's inability to make an impact on games was one of the contributing factors in Emery's exit and the Spaniard rued some of the decisions made during his second season in charge, though he reflects on his time in north London fondly.

"I was in Arsenal for a year and a half and first year I think was a very good season," he said.

"We achieved the Europa League final, we were at the last moment with the possibility to be in the top four and I think last year when I was there we recovered a lot of confidence for the club and the fans and for the players and I think we finished well that season.

"I was very happy, enjoying it and working very well. The club supported me and I was happy with the players, the atmosphere and the supporters – only the second six months of the second year when I finished in November I think we made some decisions not good for the club, but not for me, the decisions of the club.

"When the results were a little bit bad the situation changed but my first year in Arsenal I remember a lot of positive things, on the sidelines the same. I enjoyed being a coach of Arsenal and I'm very grateful for that moment I had in Arsenal.

"For me it's not negative, it was a positive experience and after I left the club the first month was not easy for me because I was running out of things [to do] but now I am very grateful to the owners, the club, the supporters, the players, the workers in Colney. 

"I now only remember the very good things there and the first year for me was a very good performance for us.

"I worked well with Mr [Stan] Kroenke, Raul [Sanllehi], [Ivan] Gazidis during the first months there. The results towards the end were the main problem but for me it was a positive experience and I'm grateful to Arsenal for the opportunity.

"This is football. Now I want the best for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, the supporters and everyone at the club."

Another player Emery failed to get the most out of is Mesut Ozil, who has since been completely frozen out of the picture by Arteta and looks set to leave Arsenal this month.

Only Kevin De Bruyne (75), David Silva (63) and Christian Eriksen (62) have provided more Premier League assists than Ozil's 54 since the start of 2013-14, but the German was regularly overlooked for selection.

Emery has defended his treatment of Ozil, however, by insisting he gave the playmaker all the guidance he could.

"I worked for one and a half years with Mesut and tried to help him, support him and achieve the performances for the team with him," said Emery, who was appointed as Villarreal head coach last July.

"Now I don't know what the problems are as I am very concentrated and focused with Villarreal. I follow every Arsenal match but I don't know what the problems are with the team or the players.

"I can only speak about Mesut Ozil when I was with him there and I tried to achieve the best performances with him."

Real Madrid youngster Takefusa Kubo is looking to cut short his loan spell with Villarreal and join another club, the Yellow Submarine's head coach Unai Emery has confirmed.

Kubo has started just two LaLiga games for Villarreal since joining on a season-long deal from Madrid in August and was not part of the squad for Saturday's 2-1 win over Levante.

Getafe president Angel Torres revealed his side's interest in the Japan international this week and reports from Spain suggest the Madrid-based club are close to striking a deal.

Speaking after his side's victory against Levante, which moved Villarreal up to fourth, Emery admitted it is likely the winger will move on.

"I asked Kubo if he wanted to stay or leave [Villarreal] and he told me that he is looking for a way out," he said at his post-match news conference. 

"Take's behaviour is good, he has helped us and he must continue to grow as a player. 

"However, he told me he wants to leave in order to find more minutes elsewhere and that's why he wasn't in the matchday squad today."

Kubo was snapped up by Madrid from FC Tokyo in 2019 and spent last season on loan with Real Mallorca, where he enjoyed more success than his current spell with Villarreal.

He scored four and assisted four more in 35 appearances but was unable to save Mallorca from relegation in their first season back in the top tier.

The 19-year-old has been used 19 times in total by Villarreal this season, 13 of those appearances coming in LaLiga.

However, Kubo has failed score from his eight shots, five of which were on target, and has yet to assist a team-mate or so much as play a successful cross from open play.

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