Soccer is a cut-throat world for both players and coaches, but it appears that finally, Unai Emery has found a landing spot where he doesn’t feel he’s constantly on the hot seat.
In his first season, Emery has led Arsenal to the UEFA Europa League final, an impressive feat considering the side has battled injuries and tough defeats in the Premier League, especially down the closing stretch of the season. In a wide-ranging interview with El Mundo, Emery said that for the first time in his career, he feels pressure to win not just to stay in a job, but to grow Arsenal back into the title-winning side of old.
“At Arsenal, I have the feeling, for the first time, of winning to build, not to survive,” Emery said. “I feel the respect towards me even when we lose, but I want the defeats to hurt more, because it is a step to improve competitively. I want the mourning for losing to be greater than two hours.”
Earlier in the interview, Emery also mentioned his appreciation for everyone at Arsenal and in England in general, being more welcoming than his time at Paris Saint-Germain. Emery said that he was instantly respected by all the staff, and thanked for working on his English all year.
“When I arrived in Paris, I tried to speak French and the answer, sarcastically, was that I did not speak it well,” Emery demurred. “In London I use very basic English and everyone smiles at me and they thank me for trying.”
In the interview, which touched on many topics including Brexit, the dominance of the Premier League in Europe and Pep Guardiola, Emery spoke of how Arsenal would contain Chelsea, especially Eden Hazard. Emery called the Belgian international star one of the top five players in the world, coming off a season with 16 goals and 15 assists in the Premier League.
Arsenal faces Chelsea on Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan, in a game overshadowed by the political conflict that has cost Henrikh Mikhtaryan the chance to play there safely.
“Hazard is a player of instants, but decisive instants,” Emery said. “It is what we have to avoid. Chelsea is capable of winning thanks to him, and that ability I have only seen in (Lionel) Messi, Cristiano (Ronaldo), Neymar or (Mohamed) Salah. For me, it is in the quintet of the best in the world. Manchester City, for example, has won its second Premier League, but it has done more from the collective. It is a team more like a chorus, like Tottenham, despite the contribution of Harry Kane and (Heung-min) Son.”