Press conference

‘I am very proud of the players, but it’s 50:50’

Unai Emery was “proud” of his players after they came from behind to beat Valencia on Thursday night.

A double from Alex Lacazette and a late third from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put us in pole position to reach the Europa League final.

Our head coach faced the press shortly after the match. Here’s what he said:

on if we have the advantage…
Good evening. Our idea and my thoughts now is that it continues to be very difficult in the second leg away. It’s 50/50 and it’s a good result at home in the first leg, but the second leg is going to be very difficult and maybe different. I consider that for two teams it’s 50/50.

on if we’ve done enough…
We can be happy today. Also, we can be proud of our supporters because here in Emirates we found this support for us in the 90 minutes. I’m also proud of the players because after 1-0 it’s not easy to be calm and come back with the result against this team. It’s not normal that Valencia concede three goals, especially after starting at 1-0 because they are a very, very good team on the transition. That’s the reason I am proud of our work today. But the second leg is going to be very difficult.

on being a former Valencia coach and what we can expect from the crowd at the Mestalla…
I want to enjoy this semi-final, playing. I don’t want to finish this 90 minutes and play the extra-time or penalties. I want to enjoy playing. I want to enjoy with our team, with our players and with our supporters also. Playing there after this result, the atmosphere is going to be a very, very tough atmosphere against us. That’s normal. They are one team with a habit of playing semi-finals and also with the possibility to come back from this result. But I want to play, I want to prepare and I want to play with our strategy there. It’s a semi-final to playing and enjoy working.

on how happy he is with Aubameyang and Lacazette’s performance…
Yes, a very good performance from them both. But every player on the team, I am very proud of the players. I am very proud of the supporters and very proud of our work. Today, we can be happy. But I told them: it’s the first leg. The second leg will be very difficult. When you can enjoy this performance with the supporters, I think every supporter of Arsenal is happy as well. But with calmness we will prepare for the second leg.

on whether we will go to Valencia to try and score like we did in Naples…
Yes, we are going to prepare for the match thinking that this round is 50/50 for both. We need also to play there thinking to win, thinking to score, thinking to defend well and thinking also to take our moments in attack. We can control with the ball and possession, but we don’t know because they are going to feel strong with their supporters there.

on what his thinking was behind playing Guendouzi and not Torreira…
Because we need also, with the ball, to have players on the pitch who have the possibility against a team like Valencia - with two lines of four - to break their lines with passes between their lines and also driving forward. I was thinking that with Matteo we can have that. Also, with the combination with Mesut we can control. After the first half he was not playing like I was thinking, but it’s good for us and our composition with the team, our set-up, was to control with the possession and doing well. That’s the reason that Matteo and Lucas can help us, at the beginning or after with the impact from the bench. They’re giving us their different qualities. They can play together or one instead of the other, it depends on the match. I decided today to go with Matteo to find these passes ahead for Mesut, the strikers and for the wingers. Maybe the match can be different for after and Lucas’ impact was good. I think we did that.

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