Unai Emery pays tribute to 'courageous' Rafa Benitez ahead of Newcastle United's visit to Arsenal

Rafa Benitez and Unai Emery.
Rafa Benitez and Unai Emery.

Unai Emery says Spanish countryman Rafa Benitez is still an example to him in management.

Benitez takes his Newcastle United side to the Emirates Stadium tonight to take on Arsenal, who are looking for a 10th successive home league victory.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are just three points short of Benitez's 38-point safety target with seven games left to play.

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez reveals what he has told Salomon Rondon about his Newcastle United future

Emery, like Benitez, had a spell in charge of Valencia early in his career, and he succeeded Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium last summer after leaving Paris Saint-Germain.

The 47-year-old hopes to emulate Benitez and win trophies in England.

“I respect him a lot, because he's a very good coach and has a lot of experience and a lot of titles," said Emery. “Here in England he has more experience than me. It's a big reference for us, for me, as a coach, his work and his courage.”

Benitez was linked with the Arsenal job before the club appointed Emery.

Arsenal – who missed out on Champions League football this season after finishing sixth in Wenger’s last campaign – are fifth in the Premier League table a point behind fourth-placed Manchester United.

“I know Unai quite well, and I think he’s doing quite well,” said Benitez. “I think he’s trying to change things a little bit, but still keeping the style that they were playing before.

“I think, in the beginning he was fine, then they had a few problems, but I think they’re doing well, especially at home.

“They have good players, they have a good manager, and so I think they have the confidence that they are progressing. He’s doing well.

“Obviously, Arsene Wenger is a great manager, he did really well, but I think Unai can do well.”

Asked if he had ever been tempted by the Arsenal job, Benitez said: “At the moment, I’m here, so I cannot change what is going on.

“My job now is to concentrate winning against them. That’s it.”

Wenger had been Arsenal manager for 22 years.

“Unai’s doing a good job,” said 58-year-old Benitez, who is out of contract at United in the summer.

“Obviously, it depends on the targets that they have, but he’s doing OK.

“I think every year he will be better because he will talk better English, he will know the league much better, he will know his own players, so I think he’s doing well.”