Arsenal are (probably) set to play Vorskla in Kiev this evening, and a win will mean we go through as the Group Winners. Our Spanish coach Unai Emery is very keen to win it for the fourth time and he believes that to win this will be a stepping stone for the Gunners to return to the biggest stage, the Champions League. The boss said: “The first thing is the foundation,”
“When I was coaching in Spain there was the chance to play in the Champions League or the Europa League.
“The teams that have the possibility to win the Champions League are Real Madrid, Barcelona… by winning the Europa League, Atletico Madrid were able to take the next step and compete to win the Champions League, and indeed they played two finals.
“At Sevilla we didn’t have the chance to go on and compete to win the Champions League but we could compete to win the Europa League again. It’s about saying, ‘Where can we get to and perform as best we can? There. Let’s go then’.
“You have to focus exclusively and with great confidence on that possibility. Once you see that you can do it and you’re making progress, the team motivates itself because it’s a title and a European one at that.
“When you have the ability to compete in the Champions League – I had that in Spain with Valencia and then with Sevilla – but if you’re not a contender to win it or it’s more difficult to take that last step, the Europa League is always a place where you can express yourself and show what you can do.
“When I joined Arsenal, I joined an Arsenal team competing in the Europa League. That’s not the place the club wants to be, but it’s still an opportunity so we can’t sniff at it. We want to play in the Champions League because this club needs to play in the Champions League, but we need to understand that right now circumstances have meant that that’s more difficult for Arsenal.
“We want to get back there and that’s the requirement. The whole club and us internally need to be aware of that. That’s what we want, but to get there we need to get back to doing things that perhaps, that for whatever reasons, we weren’t doing in recent years.”
Emery has made it clear that his target is to get the Gunners back to their previous heights in the Top Tier, but I wonder how long the management will give him to meet it. Does he have to do it this season, or within the next three years? The Premier League is getting more and more competitive every season and the Top Four is far from guaranteed, so perhaps Emery himself thinks that our best chance of reaching his target is by winning the Europa League first. Can he do it in his first season at the Emirates?