There was plenty for Unai Emery to discuss ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first-leg tie against Napoli.
Our head coach was quizzed on our home form, whether our goals need to be shared around the team more and how he is coping with the squad rotation during his first season in north London.
Read on for the full transcript of what he said:
STARTING ON THE FRONT FOOT
“This is a long competition. We started in the groups. After the last matches, we played the first leg away and we needed to come back after at home because the result was not good. Tomorrow we play at home but this club, these players, me as a coach, have experiences of different moments and different results.
“We all have played the first leg home or the first leg away. The idea is to be competitive in two matches, home and away. We need to win tomorrow but we have confidence about the possibility of winning tomorrow, but also about getting results away if we need to.
“We are going to think in these two matches, we first think about tomorrow. We play with respect because Napoli beat Roma 4-1 away, they played against PSG and Liverpool in the Champions League away in very good matches.
“Tomorrow gives us a lot of demand to be the best we can on the pitch, and also a lot of individual duels, with individual players. Also tactically, they are a very organised team with the possibility of playing with the combinations and transitions very quickly because they have very fast players.”
SHARING SCORING DUTIES
“Usually, in my career as a coach, my strikers score a lot and here they are doing the same. But we are demanding that every player has the possibility to score also and I think they are doing that. They are getting less possibilities to score but they are getting in the box, like Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Mesut. We are scoring also from our centre-backs with Koscielny in the set pieces.
“I think they are helping us with goals, the other players, but first and mostly, the most important for us is that the striker scores because we are doing and we are going to keep doing also, to give them a lot of possibilities in the box to score. But I am happy with our balance above all offensively.
“I think in decisions we are getting big performances offensively, not only with Aubameyang and Lacazette, I think with all the players and in the last matches we found the defensive balance. Maybe against Everton in the second half, the last 20 minutes, we conceded a lot of transitions and we struggled a lot defensively.
“But generally, we are getting better at this balance and this balance is offensively continuing to carry on finding the best situations to score a lot of goals and also defensively being strong, being with the balance and also the confidence to do individual duels and for the possibility to win against them.
“Tomorrow is a big test, because tomorrow is Milik, tomorrow is Insigne, tomorrow is Callejon, tomorrow a lot of players can demand and ask a lot of our performance.”
PRESSURE AT HOME
“We are playing every time with big demands of ourselves. It's not pressure. For me, to play under pressure is normal. And for me, playing under pressure is our demanding moment for every day, in training to prepare to play the matches.
“I am looking forward to playing tomorrow and to see my players and our team playing in the Emirates with our supporters and with good spirit and good tactical consistency in our game plan. And next, we know we are being consistent in a lot of moments, because if we were not consistent we would lose the possibility to be in the top four before now.
“If we win the next match in the Premier League, it's in our hands to be in the fourth or third position. But each match for us is to approach with all concentration and all focus for that. It's that for tomorrow. Tomorrow is against Napoli and I think it is for us to create a big atmosphere with our supporters, to create also a good spirit and good energy for the players with our supporters and be stronger together.”
“I think our best performances of the season we rotated and the players felt they were important for us while playing. I cannot do a lot of rotation because we are thinking that each match is very important for us to take three points, like tomorrow. I trust in all the players that when we need to change some players we are taking a big performance.
“We have played one less match than Chelsea and it’s in our hands to finish in the top four. We are in the quarter final of the Europa League and we’re finding a way to reach the Champions League through it. I think every player helps us in the season and sometimes we’re playing with three centre backs and sometimes two, and we need to change some player’s positions to help what we’re doing.
“I think every player is very focused on helping in each match and they know we need to be together. For example, on Sunday we lost and after the match we were very disappointed and also we were thinking we lost a big opportunity, but after the first sessions on Tuesday everyone was positive.
“We remembered our bad moment in the Premier League when we were the last in the race for the top four and 10 and six points behind Tottenham and Chelsea. Now we are with them because we are being consistent, but sometimes we can lose. We need to lose less matches because we need to win a lot of matches to be in the top four. It’s in our hands and I have confidence.
“I know the Europa League and Premier League are going to be difficult, but we are going to be strong, have a good spirit and use every player. We are going to protect the players because they’ve had big criticism, and that’s for me also. I’ve had criticism, but I don’t play the games. I need to protect the players because we need every player.”
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