Dubai: There are a few similarities that Arsenal and Al Nasr coaches, Unai Emery and Benat San Jose Gil, seem to share.
Both hail from the Basque region in Northern Spain.
Emery was a few years senior to San Jose Gil but both turned out for Real Sociedad in the Basque city of San Sebastian.
Ironically, both have never met either as players or as coaches. When the two do meet at the Al Maktoum Stadium for an exhibition match next week, San Jose Gil plans to speak to his counterpart in their official Basque language.
“I am waiting patiently for the match on March 26,” San Jose Gil told Gulf News as he saw his team go through their warm-up session at Al Nasr Club’s Humaid Al Tayer Stadium.
Having a team like Arsenal come and open our new stadium marks a new era for football at Al Nasr and the UAE. As a club we need to start getting the results now.
“Unai is a big coach back home. He is one of the success stories, and there couldn’t have been a better thing than to meet him in person and speak to him in Basque. I am sure he too may be having his own plans when we both come face to face,” the 39-year-old added.
Arsenal are due to land in Dubai on March 21 and spend a week here on a mid-season training camp.
The culmination of the Gunners’ stay here will be an exhibition match against Al Nasr to formally open their new-look Al Maktoum Stadium on March 26.
Al Nasr have been struggling with their form and performances with just nine rounds remaining of the Arabian Gulf League (AGL).
The Blues are in 11th place with 17 points, just behind neighbours Al Wasl (20 points) in the 14-team standings. San Jose Gil, who took over the team at the beginning of 2019, is keen to see his side gets maximum gains following such a high-profile encounter against a top team like Arsenal.
“When you are up against the best, I am certain my players will come up with their best response,” San Jose Gil said.
“Having a team like Arsenal come and open our new stadium marks a new era for football at Al Nasr and the UAE. As a club we need to start getting the results now. The match itself will be a huge occasion for us as we are tested by one of the best teams in the world,” he added.
Arsenal’s friendly against Al Nasr Club has been confirmed for 6pm start on March 26 with tickets for the game already on sale on Platinum List and at the new stadium in Bur Dubai. Tickets have been priced at Dh100 (Category 3) and Dh150 (Category 2).
“I think the first target for us would be to play well and give a good account of ourselves. Arsenal is a top-level club and we need to prove ourselves against a top team. I don’t want to be dishonest or unrealistic about our chances as that would be unfair. We want to play good football and the result will naturally follow,” San Jose Gil promised.
“I believe I am a positive person and if you ask me for a realistic position at the end of the AGL, then I would be looking for an improvement by at least four to five spots,” San Jose Gil said.
“If we can use this friendly to find our form, then the confidence will return as well. This means we can carry forward our form into the next season. But we need to start by scoring goals and that will help us win matches. The fans, who have always backed us, will be happy and we can look forward with a lot more confidence,” he added.