Mikel Arteta considers his Arsenal side can take their”biggest step ahead” under his direction should they finish a tumultuous season by booking their place at the Europa League closing.
The Gunners welcome former manager Unai Emery back to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday to the second leg of the semi-final with Villarreal.
The Spanish side holds a slight 2-1 edge from the first leg in El Madrigal, where Nicolas Pepe’s punishment gave Arsenal what would prove to be a crucial away goal.
If Arsenal wins they will almost surely face Manchester United, who are on the edge of reaching the final in Gdansk after beating Roma 6-2 in the first leg of their tie.
Arsenal hasn’t played Champions League football since 2017 but winning the Europa League will take the club back into the elite competition next season.
Arteta’s team won the FA Cup in August at the end of the first season in charge but they’ve neglected to build on that success and so are 12 points off the Premier League’s top four with only four games remaining.
There’s also disquiet among fans of Arsenal, who were one of six Premier League clubs to sign until the unlucky European Super League.
“It’s a big moment,” Arteta said of the next leg. “Again, not for me but for the club for everything which has occurred in the last two years, in the last months.
“All the instability that we’ve been here with for a lot of distinct reasons. Thus, I think it will be very important and our main step forward if we are in a position to be in that final and have the opportunity to win that trophy.”
Thousands of Gunners fans vented their rage in US owner Stan Kroenke before the recent defeat to Everton at the Emirates.
Together with Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek publicly referring to a potential takeover bid, another demonstration was mooted before Thursday’s match.
Arteta said he had no issues with supporters making their opinions heard but didn’t need to find a repeat of this disturbance by enthusiasts that caused the postponement of Manchester United’s match against Liverpool at the weekend.
“I think they need to be able to express themselves and if it is done in a specific manner, they then have the right to perform it,” he said.
“We have to get ready for the match in the best way possible. I would not like to use any excuses. If something happens with this, then I know that the only intention of these fans is to defend the club and they want the very best for the team. We will attempt to do exactly the same.”
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