London: Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp says Arsenal boss Unai Emery has proved himself as a top manager as the two coaches prepare to go head to head for the first time since the 2016 Europa League final.
Emery, then in charge at Sevilla, got the better of Klopp in the final in Basel, with his side coming from behind to win 3-1, and subsequently won the French league title with Paris St-Germain.
The Spaniard’s arrival at Arsenal as a replacement for Arsene Wenger earlier this year was not met with universal approval from fans after some underwhelming results in the Champions League with a star-studded PSG squad.
But Klopp believes Emery has won enough in his career — three successive Europa League titles and five major trophies at PSG — to warrant the respect his current 13-match unbeaten run deserves.
“All people in football knew how good he is but I am not sure all Arsenal fans were over the moon at first when they heard it would be Emery,” said Klopp.
“But that’s England a little bit, you want the poster boys. Unai was in France and before that in Spain in a smaller club, so you can go a bit under the radar.
“Not for all the people in football, though. I saw yesterday that he won eight titles in two or three years. That’s pretty big.”
Klopp, whose side are level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, dismissed the suggestion that Emery produced a tactical masterclass to get the better of his side in the second half of their Europa League final encounter.
“You’re giving managers a bit too much credit if you think we have that much influence. He couldn’t defend (against) us in the first half. We had to help with that by missing our chances,” he said.
“They won, we lost, that’s already history,” he added.
Klopp’s record against Arsenal since arriving in England is impressive. He has never lost against the Gunners, with three wins and two draws from five matches.
The fixture has a history of high scores, with the past nine Premier League matches bringing 42 goals.
“It doesn’t look like that will change. They score a lot of goals and are really good offensively,” said Klopp.
“We have to see how this game will develop. With two very offensive-orientated teams it can often happen. It doesn’t have to — we saw in the Manchester City game (a goalless draw) that, but it is possible at least.”
Klopp will still be without midfielders Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita, who are not likely to be in contention for a recall until next weekend.