Champions League return is Emery's first priority

LONDON • Arsenal manager Unai Emery knows that the top-four battle is out of his hands, with his team on 66 points and two behind fourth-placed Chelsea with two matches left in the Premier League season.

Still, he has urged the Gunners to carry on fighting because playing in the Champions League again following an absence of two seasons is the club's "first objective".

They host Brighton today after losing four of their past five league matches before a trip to Burnley for their final game of the season.

Said Emery: "If we win against Brighton, we are going to the last match against Burnley with the possibility to be in the top four.

"It's not in our hands, but we need to win our matches and the first is Sunday. It's not easy to win each match, for us and for other teams, but the focus for us is to win against Brighton for different situations.

"We are going to play the last match at home and we want to finish at the Emirates with a victory.

"The first objective is to finish in the top four."

They have another route to Europe's top club competition - as winners of the second-tier Europa League, which Emery won three times in a row with Sevilla from 2014 to 2016. The Gunners lead Valencia 3-1 after the first leg of their semi-final last Thursday.

Despite doing things the hard way and his recent hiccups, the Spaniard is happy with his first season in charge at the London club.

"Our progress, I think - when we started the season, we lost against Manchester City and Chelsea and we worked for this process, little by little and, at the end of the season now, we are with this possibility," he said.

"I think when we started we would have been happy to have today these two opportunities in the Premier League and Europa League to reach our target."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 05, 2019, with the headline 'Champions League return is Emery's first priority'. Print Edition | Subscribe