Ex Arsenal boss Unai Emery has given West Ham United a tantalising taste of what could be to come in the very near future.
West Ham take on Lyon tonight in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
The Hammers head to France next week and the winners of the tie will take on either Barcelona or Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-finals.
It is a million miles away from where West Ham were two years ago, gearing up to fight a post Covid lockdown battle against relegation.
David Moyes has worked a minor miracle at West Ham with London rivals like Arsenal and Tottenham – for once – wishing they could trade places with the Hammers right now.
If Moyes has worked wonders at West Ham what of ex Gunners boss Unai Emery at Villarreal?
La Liga may not be on the radar of football fans like it used to be when matches were broadcast on ITV and Sky Sports.
Domestically the Yellow Submarine are hardly pulling up trees as they sit seventh with no chance of Champions League qualification. If West Ham were to be compared to a yellow vehicle when Moyes took charge for a second time it would be Del Boy and Rodney’s three wheeled Robin Reliant of Only Fools fame.
And Only Fools would write Emery off. Because it is in Europe’s top competition where the much maligned former Arsenal boss is giving West Ham a tantalising taste of what could be achieved.
West Ham beat Villarreal’s Spanish rivals Sevilla in the last 16 – the team Emery made his name with for winning this very competition.
His time at Arsenal may have ended in ridicule. But Emery is a record four-time winner of UEFA’s second tier trophy and won three consecutive editions of the UEFA Europa League with Sevilla in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
It was his fourth title – with Villarreal last season – that should inspire West Ham, though.
In the fiercely competitive Premier League, West Ham’s chances of ever making the top four are tough.
Moyes oversaw what was officially the best West Ham team in Premier League history last season – as they racked up a record 65 points – but the Hammers still did not qualify – albeit only by an agonising solitary win.
Unai Emery gives West Ham a tantalising taste of what could be achieved
Villarreal are a big yellow beacon of hope for West Ham and Moyes, though.
Having led the Spanish side to Europa League glory last term, Emery’s side were rewarded – as West Ham would be – with Champions League qualification.
And having made it back to Europe’s top table, Villarreal have looked anything but out of place.
Last night they beat Bayern Munich 1-0 at home with alleged former West Ham target Arnaut Danjuma getting the winner.
Avoid defeat in the second leg and Villarreal will be in the Champions League semi-finals.
That alone should give West Ham and Moyes – and dare we say even Emery’s old club Arsenal – all the incentive they need to do everything in their power in a bid to continue this Europa League journey.
The Hammers are two ties from the final. But this time next year Rodney we could be Champions League semi-finalists!