Unai Emery insists he respects Hatem Ben Arfa despite the former PSG winger mocking his one-time manager after Arsenal’s defeat against Rennes last week.
The pair rarely saw eye-to-eye during their time together in the French capital, with Emery exiling the mercurial winger and forcing him to train with the reserves.
Ben Arfa played a pivotal role as Rennes secured a potentially decisive 3-1 lead ahead of Thursday’s second leg at the Emirates and could not resist taking a dig at Emery.
‘My motivation was to play a solid match, to win and get ourselves into a good position to go through,’ said Ben Arfa.
‘That’s what was in my head.
‘But I did see the same Emery, as agitated as ever. I looked over at him a few times and that made me laugh a little. He hasn’t changed.’
Asked what he made of the 32-year-old’s comments at his pre-match press conference, Emery replied: ‘He’s a very good player and we respect him a lot.
‘My focus is on preparing for the match against Rennes and on each player with his quality. We respect them and him a lot.’
Arsenal responded to last week’s setback with a convincing win over Manchester United on home soil and Emery hopes the positivity generated by that result can inspire a comeback against Rennes.
He said: ‘We are very demanding on ourselves. It is a positive issue.
‘We want to play top matches against the best teams. In Europa League we are finding some results like the last round vs Borisov difficult.
‘This is the same with a bad result in the first round. It will be a tough match but our demand for our best performance is very high. I want to play matches with difficult results, against tough players.
‘Tomorrow we need to be together and create a big atmosphere with our supporters to help us.
‘We need to play with high emotion, but taking clever/clear decisions on the pitch. These are both important issues. We need to control the 90 minutes, maybe more, we want to control but be on the game.’