Unai Emery has opened up on why he chose to return to the Premier League with Aston Villa after struggling in his last spell in England with Arsenal.
The Spaniard, who enjoyed success with Sevilla before enduring a mixed spell with Paris Saint-Germain, was appointed as Arsene Wenger’s successor at the Emirates Stadium in 2018.
The Gunners narrowly missed out on a top-four finish and lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea in his first season, but a poor start to the 2019/20 campaign saw Emery dismissed and replaced by Mikel Arteta.
Emery joined Villarreal the following season and eliminated Arsenal on his way to winning the Europa League for a fourth time, guiding the Yellow Submarine to their first ever major trophy.
After turning down advances from Newcastle United in 2021, Emery sealed a return to England in recent weeks after being appointed as Steven Gerrard’s successor at Aston Villa.
Speaking to Marca, Emery revealed his ambitions to guide Villa into Europe, while also revealing he is better prepared to tackle the Premier League this time around.
“All the steps I have been taking have been from a professional point of view. In every place I have been, it has been to take a piece of heart, [as a] player and coach. I have always been clear about the step I was taking,” he said.
“When we achieve the objectives, we evolve. I need to feel that there is a professional challenge. I was very happy in Villarreal fulfilling professional objectives. There were successes, but going out is something professional where I value the challenge I have in the future with the one who knocks on my door. I always attend to the one who knocks on my door and then I decide to listen or not.
“[Joining] Villa makes me return to the Premier League, challenges me to take steps in such a competitive league. I can build a team to go back to Europe.”
He added: “I am better prepared to face a new challenge in the Premier League. I already have a year and four months of experience in this league.
“I think my first year at Arsenal was nice. It was broken by some things that I have identified that I am now going to try to avoid. I have always had an internal goal of having a new opportunity and coming back better prepared, and I think that at Villarreal I have acquired a continuity that has led to them calling me back from England. It’s more of a challenge than a rematch. I had to accept it as something very professional.”
Emery’s first match as Aston Villa boss came on Sunday, seeing off Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United 3-1.