Unai Emery wants to continue to tap in to the unlocked potential in his Arsenal stars to help land some silverware for the Gunners this season. That’s according to a rejuvenated Alex Iwobi ahead of the Europa League Group E clash with Sporting Lisbon at the Emirates Stadium tonight.
Emery’s men head the table with nine points above the second-placed Portuguese side following a 1-0 win in Lisbon a fortnight ago when Danny Welbeck struck the only goal of the game.
And as the Gunners go into the clash with an eye on the Premier League encounter with Wolves on Sunday, Iwobi has revealed that the manager is demanding of his charges because he knows how much more they can deliver for the cause.
Iwobi, who is aged 22, said that the group are very close and that they are all fighting for each other, not just for the manager and the players, but also for the fans. He added:
“It’s one big family and we’re always going to fight for each other. We’re putting in an extra shift, not just in matches, but in training as well.
“Unai’s very intense in training and he’s demanding because he knows how good we are. He always wants us to be at 100 per cent, giving our best. It’s not just him. We know what we expect from each other, so we’re also trying to get the best out of each other in training.”
Iwobi says Emery is always encouraging him to be positive with the ball and to work hard off the ball for the team, adding:
“It’s not just for me, he’s helped out my other team-mates as well and has helped every player individually.
“He’s always talking to them and if it’s not him then it’s his assistants, the other coaches talking to me, showing me different clips, analysing my game, analysing opponents as well. His staff are always helping me. He’s given me that confidence in games and in training to go out and express myself.”
Avoiding defeat tonight would extend Arsenal’s run to 15 matches without defeat and comes after a pulsating 1-1 draw with title contenders Liverpool in north London last Saturday. The fact that the home side earned a point showed doubters that Emery has instilled a mental toughness in his players and proved that in spades in a game that many suggested the Gunners would have lost last season under long-swerving coach Arsene Wenger.
Meanwhile, former Arsenal striker John Hartson believes the Europa League is a realistic target for Emery to snare his first trophy since his arrival at the club. He said:
“The Europa League is obviously very important for Arsenal, because if they win it of course they get that Champions League spot.
“With the Premier League being so competitive, if Arsenal are going to finish in the top four, that means they’re going to have to finish above United, who I believe will still come strong, and finish above a Tottenham or a Chelsea and we see how strong and well they’re going. It looks like Man City and Liverpool are almost ‘gimees’ for the top four, so it looks like it’s just a case of which of them two will go all the way and win the title, I believe.”