Former Villarreal attacker and Arsenal legend Robert Pires has had his say on his two ex-clubs facing each other in the Europa League semi-final tomorrow night.
The Frenchman spent six years at Arsenal and another four in Spain with Villarreal. He has fond memories of his time at both clubs, and as Unai Emery told UEFA a few days ago, journalists should ask Pires who he would be rooting for in tomorrow’s game.
Spanish outlet AS did indeed ask Pires to pick the favourite in the clash tomorrow. The 1998 World Cup winner was mostly tight-lipped, but he conceded in the end that Unai Emery’s experience in the competition slightly gives Villarreal the edge over Arsenal.
He said: “It is difficult to pick a favourite for the semi-final. I would say 50%. It is difficult to get it right. I think Villarreal has an advantage because they have Emery, a coach who has done very well in that competition.”
“To reach a final you must release your head and not have the pressure. Maybe Arsenal have an advantage in that, since they know what it is to play them and handle that pressure better.
“Villarreal is afraid of what has happened before, something that can take its toll on them. But Villarreal this time have experienced players and that can help them a lot.”
The Insider’s View:
Unai Emery’s history in the Europa League is known to one and all. The Spaniard is the most successful manager in the history of the competition, and he will be extra motivated to get one over the side that sacked him.
However, Arsenal tasted silverware just eight months ago. The feeling would still be fresh in everyone’s memory, and all the players will surely love to get their hands on another trophy in the coming weeks.
The game tomorrow will not be easy. It will arguably be more difficult than the final, which is not ideal for us. However, if we play at the level that we are capable of, we should get past them quite comfortably.