Football Features

Unai Emery justifies Tottenham dig as Villarreal beat Bayern Munich in UCL quarter-final first leg

By Ben Green

Unai Emery justifies Tottenham dig as Villarreal beat Bayern Munich in UCL quarter-final first leg

Published: 22:21, 6 April 2022 | Updated: 21:23, 16 June 2022

Unai Emery has claimed a huge Champions League scalp as Villarreal beat Bayern Munich 1-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final clash.

The Yellow Submarine shone at both ends of the pitch as the self-proclaimed “best winger in the world”, Arnaut Danjuma, backed up his claim by breaching one of the game’s best-ever goalkeepers, Manuel Neuer, while Emery’s men defended boldly at the back, keeping a rare lid on Robert Lewandowski.

It was the kind of hard-nosed, muck-and-nettles performance that encapsulates the brand of football espoused by Emery at the Estadio de la Ceramica. Organisation is the buzzword where those of a Villarreal persuasion are concerned, and tonight threw weight behind the mantra.

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It was also the kind of performance that should offer Emery vindication for his pre-match comments about Villarreal being a club that challenges for silverware. The former Arsenal manager was quick to throw an old rival under the bus when explaining his footballing philosophy.

The Tottenham Hotspur contingent — either past or present — is strong among Emery’s ranks, not least Etienne Capoue, Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier and Giovani Lo Celso (on loan), and he was keen to explain just how influential that north London quartet has been for the club’s success.

“Tottenham is also a very big club, but here they (those players) could win things,” he told The Athletic.

“Tottenham has been years without winning anything, no trophies.”

Of course, Emery has been a magnet for silverware across his career, including a Europa League three-peat with Sevilla, several domestic trophies with a trophy-expectant PSG and a Europa League with Villarreal last season, haunting another Premier League club in the form of Manchester United in the final.

So, the Spaniard can very well justify his comments about Tottenham being a club without silverware, because he has been hoarding medals for several years now. And to beat Bayern 1-0 on home soil will only enhance and bolster those comments… particularly as some of those aforementioned players were exceptional against the Bavarians.

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Lo Celso played like a man possessed, doubling up with Foyth on the flank superbly. His trivela secondary assist to Dani Parejo for Danjuma’s deadlock-breaker was a moment of pure instinctive inspiration, while Capoue was as industrious as ever in the middle of the park, and Aurier saw the game out well when he came on.

There was also another player of the north London alumnus who shone for Emery, Francis Coquelin. The 30-year-old Frenchman historically has previous with Bayern… and not in a good way. He was part of the Arsenal side that lost three successive 5-1s to the Bavarian beast between 2015 and 2017.

His performance tonight was chalk and cheese from those three capitulations. He locked down the midfield superbly, nearly scored an outrageous cross-cum-shot, and has finally banished the ghost from those Bayern routs. Emery has proven an elite tactician once again.

For Lo Celso, he was part of the Tottenham side that lost 10-3 to Bayern on aggregate in that 2019/20 Champions League season. He too has exorcised his Bayern demons, and it’s all down to the tactical ingenuity of one man.

Article produced by Ben Green (@BenMGreen95)