Villarreal coach Unai Emery comes up against his former club Arsenal, and fellow Spaniard, Mikel Arteta, as the two teams do battle for a place in the 2021 final.
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Villarreal head coach Unai Emery comes up against his former club Arsenal, and fellow Spanish counterpart Mikel Arteta, as the two teams do battle for a place in the 2021 UEFA Europa League final. While the Liga side have won every European home game this season, Arsenal are on a record unbeaten away run in this competition.
• Villarreal cruised to first place in UEFA Europa League Group I ahead of Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Sivasspor and Qarabağ to reach the round of 32 for the eighth time before comfortably disposing of UEFA Champions League group stage participants Salzburg (2-0 a, 2-1 h) and Dynamo Kyiv (2-0 a, 2-0 h) and then also winning both quarter-final matches against Dinamo Zagreb (1-0 a, 2-1 h).
• Arsenal claimed maximum points in the autumn from UEFA Europa League Group B, doing the double over Rapid Wien, Dundalk and fellow qualifiers Molde before eliminating Benfica (1-1 a, 3-2 h), Olympiacos (3-1 a, 0-1 h) and, in the quarter-finals, Slavia Praha (1-1 h, 4-0 a). With 32 goals scored, they are the top-scoring team in this season's UEFA Europa League.
• The clubs have been paired twice previously, on each occasion in the UEFA Champions League knockout phase, with Arsenal prevailing in both ties.
• The first meeting was in the 2005/06 semi-final, Arsène Wenger's Arsenal defeating Manuel Pellegrini's Villarreal 1-0 in the first leg at Highbury – in the club's final home European encounter at the stadium – thanks to a Kolo Touré strike, before drawing the return 0-0 in Spain. Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann saved a late penalty from Juan Román Riquelme to take the Gunners into their first – and as yet only – European Cup final, which they would lose 2-1 to Barcelona.
• Three years later the clubs met again, with the same managers, in the quarter-finals, and once more the English side were victorious, Wenger's side drawing the first leg 1-1 before cruising to a 3-0 home win.
• Those two campaigns remain Villarreal's sole ventures into the UEFA Champions League knockout phase. They were also defeated by English opposition on their last appearance in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, going out to Liverpool in 2015/16 (1-0 h, 0-3 a), which made their all-time record against Premier League opposition in two-legged UEFA ties W1 L3. The only victory came in the first of those, against Everton in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round (2-1 a, 2-1 h).
• Villarreal's overall record against English clubs is W4 D6 L5. At home it is W3 D4 L1, with Manchester City the only visitors from England to defeat them at the Estadio de la Cerámica, winning 3-0 there in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Arsenal, in contrast, won their most recent UEFA Europa League semi-final against Spanish opponents, Emery overseeing a comfortable aggregate win over his former club Valencia in 2018/19 (3-1 h, 4-2 a). Twelve months earlier Wenger's Gunners had been eliminated at the same stage of the competition by another Liga side, Atlético de Madrid, who drew 1-1 in London before winning 1-0 in the Spanish capital.
• Arsenal have won 12 of their 35 UEFA fixtures against Spanish opposition, their 15 defeats including three in finals – in the European Cup Winners’ Cup against Valencia (1979/80) and Real Zaragoza (1994/95) as well as that loss to Barcelona in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League decider. Their overall record in two-legged ties against Spanish teams is W6 L5.
• The Gunners have won just three of their 16 fixtures against Spanish hosts, most recently against Valencia in the second leg of that 2018/19 semi-final, a win that ended a run of four successive defeats in Spain as well as four straight eliminations by Liga sides.
• Villarreal finished fifth in the 2019/20 Spanish Liga to return to Europe after a season's absence and participate in the UEFA Europa League group stage for a record-equalling eighth time.
• The Spanish club have never finished outside the top two in their eight group campaigns, going through as section winners four times, including this season as Emery's side won Group I at a canter, scoring 12 goals in winning their first three matches before sealing first place with a 1-0 win at Sivasspor on Matchday 5.
• Villarreal have lost both of their previous two UEFA Europa League semi-final ties, going down to eventual winners Porto in 2010/11 (1-5 a, 3-2 h) before that 2015/16 defeat against Liverpool. The club have never reached a major European final.
• Villarreal's home record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W13 D2 L4, the defeats all leading to elimination, including in each of their last three campaigns – most recently in the 2018/19 quarter-final against local rivals Valencia (1-3 h, 0-2 a). Villarreal have not lost a UEFA Europa League match since that tie and are now undefeated by non-Spanish opposition in 21 European matches (W15 D6), winning their last six at home.
• Eighth in the 2019/20 Premier League, Arsenal ensured a 25th consecutive season in Europe by winning the FA Cup under new manager Arteta – the club's record 14th triumph in the competition – with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the final. Their third successive UEFA Europa League campaign was ended in the round of 32 by Olympiacos.
• UEFA Champions League ever-presents for 19 seasons in a row from 1998/99 to 2016/17, Arsenal reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals at the first attempt in 2017/18, losing to eventual winners Atlético, before going one step further and making it to the 2018/19 final, where they were defeated 4-1 by Chelsea in Baku. They have been group winners on all four UEFA Europa League appearances – an unprecedented feat – and this season became the 11th team in the competition to top their section with maximum points thanks to wins against Rapid (2-1 a, 4-1 h), Dundalk (3-0 h, 4-2 a) and Molde (4-1 h, 3-0 a).
• Arsenal's record in UEFA Europa League semi-finals is W1 L1 as a result of those two contrasting ties against Spanish opposition in 2017/18 and 2018/19.
• The Gunners are now undefeated in 12 UEFA Europa League away games (W9 D3), having set a new competition record last time out with their 4-0 win in Prague – the club's biggest on the road in the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League. The last European hosts to beat them were Rennes, 3-1 in the 2018/19 round of 16 first leg. Their overall away record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W7 D2 L3, with five wins in the last six matches, the exception, a 1-1 draw, coming in neutral Piraeus against Benfica.
Links and trivia
• Emery replaced long-serving Arsenal boss Wenger in May 2018 and remained in charge for 18 months before being dismissed and ultimately replaced by his fellow Basque native Arteta.
• Emery has overseen 90 matches in the UEFA Europa League proper – 30 more than any other coach. He led Sevilla to all three of their trophy successes from 2013/14 to 2015/16 before losing that 2018/19 final with Arsenal.
• San Sebastián-born Arteta started out with Barcelona's youth team but the only Spanish Liga side he played for was hometown club Real Sociedad, in 2004/05.
• Villarreal midfielder Francis Coquelin was on Arsenal's books from 2008 to 2018, making 160 appearances for the club in all competitions and winning two FA Cups.
• Juan Foyth is currently on loan to Villarreal from Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, while Étienne Capoue is another former Spur who joined the Spanish club in January after five and a half seasons with Watford.
• Alberto Moreno was a Premier League player with Liverpool (2014–19), while his Villarreal team-mate Ramiro Funes Mori played with Merseyside rivals Everton (2015–18). Dani Parejo spent 2008/09 on loan at Queens Park Rangers in the English Championship.
• There are three Spaniards in Arsenal's squad – Héctor Bellerín, Pablo Marí and Dani Ceballos. The latter is on an extended loan to the club from Spanish champions Real Madrid, as is Norwegian international Martin Ødegaard.
• Ceballos and Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza were members of Spain's 2019 UEFA Under-21 European Championship-winning squad.
• Thomas Partey joined Arsenal in October 2020 from Atlético, for whom he made 188 appearances in all competitions, scoring 16 goals, and was a UEFA Europa League winner in 2017/18. He also played in Spain for Mallorca and Almería.
• Villarreal have played more matches in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, than any other club. This is their 86th encounter – 12 more than second-placed Salzburg.
• The 25 goals scored by Villarreal this season have lifted their all-time total in the competition to a record 149, 20 more than Liga rivals Sevilla, with 99 conceded. They also hold the record for most UEFA Europa League wins (48), six more than Sevilla.
• This is Arsenal's 50th match in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. Their record is W32 D8 L9. They are the highest-scoring English club in the competition with 108 goals – five more than Tottenham.
• Arsenal lost 0-1 at home to Everton in the Premier League last Friday – their fifth successive match without a win at the Arsenal Stadium in all competitions (D2 L3) – and a similar fate befell Villarreal two days later as they lost 1-2 at home to Barcelona in the Spanish Liga despite taking the lead through Samuel Chukwueze.