Arteta urges Arsenal to take ‘biggest step forward’ and reach Europa final

Mikel Arteta claims his Arsenal team will take their “biggest step forward” under his leadership by reaching the Europa League final at the end of a difficult season.

On Thursday, the Gunners will welcome back former boss Unai Emery for the return leg of their semifinal against Villarreal at the Emirates Stadium.

The Spanish side have a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at El Madrigal, where Nicolas Pepe’s penalty gave Arsenal a vital away goal.

If Arsenal wins, they will almost definitely face Manchester United, who are in the final four after defeating Roma 6-2 in the first leg of their tie in Gdansk.

Arsenal has not played in the Champions League since 2017, but a victory in the Europa League will return the club to the top flight next season.

Arteta’s team won the FA Cup at the end of his first season in charge in August, but they have been unable to build on that performance.

Arsenal fans are also concerned, as the Gunners were one of six Premier League clubs to join the doomed European Super League.

“It’s a big moment,” Arteta said of the second leg. “Again, not for me but for the club for everything that has happened in the last two years, in the last months.

“All the instability that we’ve been here with for many different reasons. So, I think it will be really important and our biggest step forward if we are able to be in that final and have the opportunity to win that trophy.”

Before Arsenal’s recent loss to Everton at the Emirates, tens of thousands of Gunners fans vented their frustrations at US owner Stan Kroenke.

Another protest has been planned ahead of Thursday’s match, following Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek’s public comments about a possible takeover offer.

Arteta said he had no issue with fans expressing their views, but he did not want to see a repeat of the fan unrest that forced Manchester United’s match against Liverpool to be postponed at the weekend.

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

“We have to prepare for the game in the best possible way. I wouldn’t like to use any excuses. If something happens with that, then I know that the only purpose of the fans is to defend the club and that they want the best for the team. We will try to do the same.”

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