Unai Emery says that in his experience English clubs didn’t always take the Europa League seriously until UEFA changed the rules to hand the winners a place in the following season’s Champions League.
The Arsenal boss won the competition in three successive seasons with Sevilla, so knows what it takes to go the distance, and he insists he’s going to tell his players they have to treat it seriously.
Speaking at a conference in La Ciudad del Futbol in Madrid, Emery said, “In England the culture is that the Premier League is the first competition, and the second one is the Champions League.
“They compete and want to win it but they have met Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico, who have all imposed themselves. They are the dominant teams in the last few years.
“It’s a competition where the English didn’t see that they could develop and find a place, it was a sacrifice too big.
“When I won it with Sevilla I saw that the English clubs didn’t fight for it, but then UEFA put four years ago a rule to strengthen it, giving the Champions League to the winner and for four years three English teams reached the final.
“I am in this competition and I’m telling my Arsenal players it is very important because it is a title and an open door to the next Champions League.”
Chelsea were Europa League winners in 2012-13, while Manchester United won it in 2016-17 and found themselves in the Champions League despite finishing 6th in the league that season.
The Gunners are currently in the top four, but it’s early days still so no route back to Europe’s top table should be dismissed. It doesn’t sound like Emery will let that happen anyway, and hopefully we can go one better than last season’s semi-final exit.