Villarreal boss Unai Emery spoke to UEFA yesterday ahead of his side’s game against Arsenal in the Europa League on Thursday.
The clash between Mikel Arteta and his predecessor this week is getting a lot of publicity. It is going to be a war and the loser will feel a bit of pain after the game – more so than after any other loss they’ve faced in their respective careers.
Emery spoke about the players he managed at Arsenal during his time here. He heaped praise on a whole bunch of them, but his comments about a player he didn’t want the Gunners to sign is really interesting ahead of Thursday’s big clash.
He said: “[Nicolas] Pepe is also an important player, who I think is settling and getting more and more confident.”
Emery did not want Pepe at Arsenal
It is no secret at this point that Emery didn’t want Arsenal to sign Pepe. The former Arsenal boss was desperate to sign another Ivorian in Wilfried Zaha, who was also reportedly interested in joining forces with the Spaniard.
Emery told The Guardian last year: “We signed Pepe, he’s a good player but we didn’t know his character and he needs time, patience. I favoured someone who knew the league and wouldn’t need to adapt.
“Zaha won games on his own: Tottenham, Manchester City, us. Incredible performances. I told them: ‘This is the player I know and want.’ I met Zaha and he wanted to come. The club decided Pepe was one for the future.”
Emery’s reasons for Zaha is understandable, but Pepe was the right player to buy. Yes, he hasn’t lived up to his price tag at Arsenal, but he is still a quality player, and now that he has settled in, he is looking a lot better.
If Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isn’t fully fit by Thursday, Pepe will likely start again. If he can play well and have a direct impact on the game, the Ivorian will send a clear message to his former boss – Arsenal were right to choose him over Zaha.