Arsenal manager Unai Emery spoke to the press today (Thursday) ahead of the crucial encounter with Chelsea on Saturday at the Emirates. The match is likely to bear much influence on the top four race and the consequent Champions League qualification, as the Gunners currently sit in the fifth place, six points behind Chelsea in fourth. A win would therefore cut the deficit in half, while a defeat could cripple any realistic hope of returning to Europe’s elite club competition next season.
However, the first topic the boss was asked about was the announcement of Petr Cech. The experienced goalkeeper has revealed to the world he intends to quit playing professional football once this season is over, and he’s currently being mooted for a coaching role at his former club – Chelsea.
Emery called Cech first and foremost a great man, and even though the two of them have worked together, the trophies he has won in his illustrious career speak for themselves. The shot-stopper commands huge respect from the football world, including Emery himself, who says Cech’s decision to retire at the end of the season was a deeply personal one, and one that increases the desire of the team to find one more good moment with him.
The boss believes the Chelsea match will be a difficult one, a good test. Arsenal have two different faces at home and away and some balance is certainly needed there, but as this one is being played in north London, that particular aspect shouldn’t pose a problem. He had hoped Arsenal would enter this game with three points more in the table, but West Ham prevented that last week. He wants his team to show more this time around.
As expected, Emery was asked about the “Spygate” affair. As you probably already know, a Leeds United employee was caught observing a training practice of Derby County ahead of the meeting between the two Championship sides. Emery considers Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa to be “obsessive”, but also a big professional. The only thing he feels is important in this matter is whether it was legal or not, and adds that everyone will have their own opinion. He also said he had never done something like that himself.
The issue of Sven Mislintat possibly leaving Arsenal is a more pressing one at this moment, and Emery says everything is normal between them. He doesn’t know if the club’s head of recruitment will be leaving his post soon.
In fact, Emery says he has spoken to both Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi about the January transfer window, and that the two men are working hard on that front, but it will be difficult to acquire players that would be able to help the team straight away. They are focusing on potential loan deals, but the manager refused point blank to publicly discuss the possibility of signing Denis Suarez when asked about it.
Mesut Ozil will be getting married at the end of the season, Emery has confirmed, but he insists on separating the private life of a player from what’s expected of him on the pitch. The situation with the German is the same as with the rest of the squad – the boss expects consistency in performances. Ozil has had bad injuries that have made his fitness situation far from that, and even though he wasn’t involved in the last several games, it might be a different story from this moment on. He is training quite consistently, and he may be available to face Chelsea.
Emery refuses to give and thought to Ozil potentially leaving this month. He is only concerned with the ways the attacking midfielder can help his team at this moment.
The Spaniard is expecting to face a very organized opponent in Chelsea, with some very important players. However, he believes that Arsenal can win – if they deliver a good performance. Having faced them at Stamford Bridge early in the season and lost, he believes now is a good moment to play them again.
Emery says Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has adapted well to England. His team has personality, as was the case when he was at Napoli. They dominated most of their games this season, and they even beat title holders Manchester City. It will be a good test.
In the end, the boss was asked about Cech potentially getting a coaching job at Arsenal, but he has no answers to that at the moment. He wants to enjoy the next four months of working with him.
Arsenal can be backed at 2/1 to beat Chelsea on Saturday.