‘Big step forward’ if Arsenal make final – Arteta

Villarreal won the first leg 2-1 in Spain a week ago, but Nicolas Pepe’s second-half penalty handed Arteta’s side a crucial away goal.

“It’s a big moment,” the Spaniard said.

“Not for me but for the club, for everything that has happened in the last two years, in the last months.”

Arsenal reached the Europa League final in 2019 under current Villarreal boss Unai Emery, but were beaten 4-1 in Baku by Premier League rivals Chelsea.

“I think it will be really important and our biggest step forward if we are able to be in that final and have the opportunity to win that trophy.” Arteta said.

Winning the tournament offers Arsenal hope of playing in next season’s Champions League – but Arteta knows a fifth successive season without qualifying for Europe’s elite competition from their league position is far from ideal for the club.

“It is not what we want but there are a lot of things that have happened in that period for many reasons,” he said.

“One is because the level is being raised to a standard that is unprecedented in this league, and we are not the only club that has been out of that.

“But obviously no one accepts that situation and we want to change it straight away and this season we still have the opportunity to do that.”

Defender Kieran Tierney could make a return to the side for the first time since suffering a knee injury in the defeat to Liverpool in early April.

Alexandre Lacazette is also in contention after overcoming a hamstring issue, but centre-back David Luiz (hamstring) is unlikely to feature.


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