The former Gunners midfielder admits that he did not expect a Spanish coach to be in contention of a top-four finish and Europa League glory
Unai Emery has exceeded expectations at Arsenal to have the club on the brink of wrapping up a “remarkable season”, says Ray Parlour.
A Spanish tactician was handed the reins in north London during the summer of 2018 as Arsene Wenger’s iconic 22-year tenure came to a close.
He was a proven performer from spells at Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain, but a period of adaptation was expected in new surroundings and with a side that sat outside of the Champions League places.
Emery has, however, delivered a top-four challenge and Europa League semi-final berth in his debut campaign, with Parlour impressed at the progress being made over some sizeable obstacles.
The former Gunners midfielder told Sky Sports: “I did not expect Arsenal to be in the top four at this stage of the season.
“With a new manager coming in there were lots of changes, but if they finish fourth it has to go down as a remarkable season.
“I had them down to finish fifth or sixth, then they could build on that next season, but at the moment they are in a very good position.”
Parlour added on another productive European run for a manager who has previously enjoyed continental success in his homeland: “Valencia won’t be an easy semi-final, but Emery has a great record in the competition and plays a really strong team every time. They have a real chance.
“Emery also knows, like Manchester United did a few years ago, [winning the Europa League] is an avenue into the Champions League, which is so important for the club, having not been in it for the past two or three seasons.
“Financially they have missed out, and have also missed out on players, because players want to play in the Champions League.”
Having booked their place in the last four of the Europa League, Arsenal will be back in domestic action on Sunday when they take in a derby date with Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium.
They will then make two trips to the Midlands to face Wolves and Leicester before playing host to Valencia on May 2.