Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery insists his old side’s charge for Premier League glory will not be derailed by their defeat against Manchester City.
The Gunners travel to Villa Park for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off trailing their rivals – albeit only on goal difference and with a game in hand – after Pep Guardiola’s side secured a 3-1 win.
But Emery, who spent 18 months in charge at the Emirates Stadium before he was replaced by Mikel Arteta, believes the Gunners are still in the hunt to win their first title since 2004.
“Arsenal are a really good team in a very good moment,” said Emery, 51.
“Their last matches won’t change the confidence, and how they are progressing, how they are playing and their possibilities to win the title this year.”
Emery succeeded Arsene Wenger at the north London club and led them to a Europa League final – where they suffered a heavy 4-1 loss to Chelsea – and fifth in the league before he was sacked in November 2019.
But speaking ahead of Saturday’s reunion with his former employers, Emery said: “At Arsenal, I had very good experiences. I enjoyed it there.
“I was there for one and a half years. But you have to use those moments to learn, to get stronger and I became a better coach after my experiences in Arsenal.
“I’m so grateful to Arsenal, to the owners, to the supporters, to the players. But I’m very grateful to everybody here and I will use my experiences from my time at Arsenal and get better with Aston Villa.”
Emery has overseen an upturn in Villa’s fortunes since he left Villarreal to take over at the Midlands club following Steven Gerrard’s dismissal.
But although Villa are up to 11th in the table and 10 points clear of the relegation zone, they host Arsenal following back-to-back defeats to Leicester and Manchester City and Emery insists his first job is to keep Villa in the top flight.
He added: “Tomorrow, our challenge is clear. Our objective does not change. The target is the same as before the match against Leicester and after the two games we lost.
“We must try to escape the bottom and we have not done that yet.
“We are trying to add points and get to the top 10, and if we can catch some teams we are going to try and do it.”