Arteta urges Arsenal to shoot ‘biggest step ahead’ and reach Europa final

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Mikel Arteta believes his Arsenal side can take their”largest step forward” under his management if they end a turbulent season by booking their place in the Europa League final.

The Gunners welcome former director Unai Emery back to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday to the next leg of the semi-final with Villarreal.

The Spanish side holds a slight 2-1 edge from the first leg at El Madrigal, at which Nicolas Pepe’s penalty gave Arsenal what would prove to be an important away goal.

If Arsenal wins they’ll almost certainly face Manchester United, who are on the brink of reaching the final in Gdansk after beating Roma 6-2 at the first leg of their tie.

Arsenal has not played Champions League football since 2017 but winning the Europa League will take the club back to the elite competition next year.

Arteta’s team won the FA Cup in August at the conclusion of the first season in charge but they have failed to build on that success and so are 12 points off the Premier League’s best four with just four games remaining.

There is also disquiet among supporters of Arsenal, who had been among six Premier League clubs to register up to the unlucky European Super League.

“It is a huge moment,” Arteta said of the next leg. “Again, not for me but for the club to get everything which has occurred in the previous two decades, in the last months.

“All the instability that we’ve been here with for many distinct reasons. Thus, I think it will be very important and also our main step forward if we’re able to be in that final and have the chance to win that trophy.”

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Countless Gunners fans vented their rage at US owner Stan Kroenke before the current defeat to Everton at the Emirates.

Together with Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek publicly referring to a possible takeover bid, another demonstration was mooted ahead of Thursday’s match.

Arteta stated he had no issues with supporters making their opinions heard but did not want to find a repeat of this disturbance by enthusiasts that led to the postponement of Manchester United’s match against Liverpool at the weekend.

“I think that they have to have the ability to express themselves and if it’s done in a specific way, then they got the right to do it,” he said.

“We have to get ready for the game in the best possible way. I would not like to use any explanations. If something happens with this, then I know that the sole purpose of these fans would be to defend the club and that they want the best for the team. We will attempt to do the same.”

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