Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla has said Mikel Arteta is the right coach for Arsenal despite the club’s disappointing campaign this season.
The Gunners sit ninth in the league standings with just four games to go and could miss out on European spots.
Their best chance of qualifying for Europe might lie in winning the Europa League, but they have to overcome Villarreal’s hurdle to reach the final.
The semi-final is balanced for now and ahead of the second leg Cazorla has delivered her verdict on Arteta’s managerial career so far.
He told UEFA.com: “I think he’s the right man to move the club forward. It’s hard to keep up with a period like Wenger’s – the club have to adapt to a different kind of football, a different philosophy, a different vision of football.
“He has a clear idea of how he wants his team to play, they are in the semi-finals and they have done well in the FA Cup. [last season]. They’ve been pretty inconsistent, but you have to give it time.
“I think they are convinced that Mikel can benefit a lot from the team and achieve great things. I am very good friends with him, and whatever good happens to him and to him and the club, I would be happy for them because I am a ‘Gunner’.
The Gunners are down 2-1 after the semi-final first leg at El Madrigal. Their performance was poor, but they have the away goal advantage for the second leg.
When asked to pick a potential winner, Cazorla declined to pick either club, having played for both at different stages of his career.
The Spain midfielder added that he would like the winner of the meeting to take the Europa League title in Gdansk next month.
He added: “My feelings for both clubs are so huge that it’s hard for me to choose one or the other. I would have liked this tie to be the final because I knew that at least the winner would lift the trophy.
“The feelings are going to be very good, but I will feel very bad for the team that is eliminated. The only thing I ask is that the team that reaches the final wins it.
The Gunners received a boost ahead of the second leg at Emirates Stadium with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back in great shape.
Aubameyang made his first start since recovering from malaria against Newcastle United last weekend. He scored his 15th goal of the campaign.
The captain will be eager to make his mark in a must-see game on Thursday, which could make or break the Gunners’ Champions League prospects.
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