Robert Pires has heaped praise on Unai Emery and says the Arsenal manager can still win the Europa League in his first season at the Emirates.
Emery’s Arsenal suffered a shock 3-1 defeat in the first leg of the last-16 Europa League clash with Rennes last week.
But, after beating Premier League rivals Manchester United over the weekend, Pires believes the Gunners can overturn the two-goal deficit at home on Thursday evening and go on to win the competition.
Success in the Europa League would see Arsenal quality for next year’s Champions League, although they could still manage that by finishing in the top four of the Premier League.
Asked to rate Emery’s first season at the Emirates, having succeeded Arsene Wenger last summer, Arsenal hero Pires told Marca:
‘I think he is doing well.
‘They are in the top four and I think they can qualify for next season’s Champions League.
‘I think, and I hope, that he can win the Europa League, as he won it three times with Sevilla.
‘So he has a lot of experience and knows there is good quality and a good squad. I think he has built a good team and they are now ready to fight for the end of the season.’
Arsenal took the lead at Rennes last week but a Sokratis red card turned the tie on its head and the home side scored three goals to put themselves in a commanding position ahead of their trip to north London on Thursday.
Despite the defeat, Pires says he has a ‘good feeling’ ahead of the second leg and insists ‘anything is possible’ when Arsenal play at home.
He added: ‘I’m confident and positive, like the players.
‘All of the players and Unai Emery know that they played bad against Rennes, but this is football.
‘Maybe it’s because Rennes played well. The atmosphere was very good, the fans added pressure and unfortunately Sokratis was sent off, but we have a second chance at home at the Emirates.
‘It’s strange, but maybe after the Manchester United win I have a good feeling. Anything is possible because when Arsenal play at home they can beat any team.’
After facing Ligue 1 outfit Rennes in the Europa League, Arsenal return to Premier League action with a home match against Newcastle United at the weekend.