There are passages from the past that remain intact in the present memory, unimaginable moments for a village team (50,500 inhabitants) that stood in the semifinals of the Champions League and was eleven meters away from forcing an extension that gave them the chance to stand in the final . Riquelme failed to beat Lehmann, Arsenal goalkeeper, and Villarreal remained on the verge of glory. 15 years have passed and the penalty that Riquelme could not convert is back on top. “I didn’t see the penalty again, I don’t think I’ll ever see it again,” the Argentine sadly acknowledged these days.
Villarreal, who were also subsequently eliminated in a Champions League quarter-final against the Londoners, meet Arsenal again, this time in a Europa League semi-final (21.00, Movistar). “Villarreal is going to have a chance of reaching the final, since Arsenal do not have Pirès or Henry,” mused Riquelme.
Nor does the yellow team currently have a first world class as was Román or with the goals of a Golden Boot like Forlán. But he has in his ranks Gerard Moreno, one of the most decisive strikers in Europe in 2021, and he already has 18 goals and six assists. “To be well individually, the group is key. If the team is well, it is easier for you to do things better ”, says Gerard Moreno about his contribution while he considers that there is no feeling of revenge to meet Arsenal again in a semi-final. “More than a thorn it is a challenge. Villarreal have been left out of a final four times and this is a good opportunity to break that ceiling ”, reflects the international forward. “It is our moment”, is the motto of Villarreal to face the tie.
The Emery effect
In February 2020, Fernando Roig Negueroles, CEO of Villarreal, agreed with Unai Emery the union between the Castellón club and the Hondarribia coach once the course ended, relieving Javier Calleja from the La Cerámica bench. The great season finale of the yellow team that qualified for the current Europa League, reaching a fifth place and playing great football, was not worth the continuity of the Alavés coach recently. The Roigs, father and son, thought that it was time for the club to take a leap of ambition, that it was time to entrust the team to a reputed and experienced coach who would turn Villarreal into a more competitive team without losing the essence and good taste.
Emery’s experience supported the bet, endorsed in the Europa League, in which he is the coach with the most matches directed (104) and victories (64), winning three consecutive titles with Sevilla, being a finalist on one occasion with Arsenal ( lost to Chelsea), with the idea of taking the first step for Villarreal to reach their first final. “Breaking that barrier in the semifinals makes us face the game in a very special way, something very nice for everyone,” is excited Emery, who knows a club perfectly in which he spent a year and a half without much success. “Arsenal are a great club. I keep the things that have contributed to me to continue growing, ”says Emery, who acknowledges that Mikel Arteta got in touch when he took over the reins of Arsenal. “I passed on my experience at Arsenal in which I wanted to give him my vision. I talked about football and about my house in Barnet (London borough) in case he was interested in taking it ”, says Emery.
Arsenal travels through the middle of the Premier and Europe can save the course. Aubameyang, who has passed malaria, and Lacazette, with muscular problems, have traveled to Vila-real.