The Villarreal star talks about the Champions League, works with Unai Emery and faces Liverpool

Sunday afternoon, Arno Danjuma He sat on his sofa watching the Merseyside derby. Villarreal did not have a match at the weekend due to the Copa del Rey final, so the Dutch winger gave the Dutch winger the perfect opportunity to watch Liverpool, the team they will face on Wednesday in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.

To be clear, there was nothing Danjuma didn’t already know about Jurgen Klopp’s side: he’s one of those passionate footballers in his spare time too. He just loves the game – he loves to play it, watch it and talk about it, but the main reason he watches it is to learn. Get to know his opponents, see what other attackers are doing, and learn how to improve and emulate other attackers. And by doing so, how does he improve himself.

“I watch everything,” he told ESPN. “I’m a fan at first and because I want to become one of the best players in the world, watching a lot of football will improve my skills. Watching can teach you a lot. I also do a lot of analysis of my own games one hour every day I watch clips of myself in matches or trainings. I have a personal attacking coach, Antonio Rodriguez, working with me, we check everything together.

“In modern football it is not just about your talent. It is also about your football intelligence and the amount of work you do off the field. There is a lot that you can learn just by watching yourself again. And then, you also learn a lot by watching your opponents.”

So, on Sunday, his entire focus was on Liverpool: how they play, how they prepare, their playing styles, their movement. There is a lot to admire when it comes to Liverpool this season. However, this is not the approach taken by Danjuma or Villarreal.

“The best way to deal with this match is to deal with it as we did before,” he said. “We beat some European giants along the way already, which is really an achievement and we are all confident in our ability. We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing and believe in our own strategy.”

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The Yellow Submarine will have the same mentality they had against Juventus and Bayern Munich in the previous two rounds. In both links, they shocked everyone, not just by going through but by the way they did it. Their journey so far in this competition has been exceptional. They finished second in a group with Manchester United, Young Boys and Atalanta, and made their way to the semi-finals with huge away victories over Atalanta to qualify for the round of 16, in Turin against Juventus to book their place in the quarter-finals, and at home. Against Bayern to defy all odds in the two matches, eliminating the German champions 2-1 on aggregate.

“The rest of the world may not have expected us to come this far, but we’ve always been confident,” Danjuma said. “Our road to the semi-final was not easy, which makes it better, but you didn’t beat the teams we beat by chance, which is a good sign for us before facing Liverpool – another giant and one of the best clubs in the world.”

“We showed against Juventus and Bayern that this is not luck. We have a strategy – a style of play. Juventus and Bayern are two completely different teams. Juventus is one of the best defensive teams in the world, while Bayern has some of the best defensive teams in the world. The best strikers in the world and we play very offensive football. For us to be able to beat them showed our quality and our strategy. With Liverpool, we know what we are going to face.”

Throughout the weekend, Emery and his players worked out their tactical plan for the first leg at Anfield on Wednesday. Once again, they were meticulous in their preparations: by analyzing the video and the actors on the training ground, they were preparing what to do with and without the ball, as well as how to try to identify Liverpool’s weaknesses. defense.

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“Emery is special: he’s one of the main reasons I went to Villarreal,” Danjuma said. “It is a great honor to work under him as a coach. He is very open with the players and I learn a lot from him. It is really fun to work with him. He is one of the best. He is different.”

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One of Emery’s biggest accomplishments with Villarreal so far this season is the diversity he has instilled in his players, giving them confidence against any opponent.

“One of our main strengths is to be able to do what the coach wants in a near-perfect way and play differently depending on the opponent,” Danjuma said. “[Emery] He is like an elite tactical coach. If you implement his game plan, you will have a high chance of winning no matter who the opponent is. We have a lot in our locker. We can sit and play at the counter. We can play with the ball and get creative. We can do everything.”

Their next challenge is arguably the toughest yet in this competition. Not only does Liverpool boast a club on the touchline, but a squad rich in talent like Mohamed SalahAnd thiagoAnd Sadio Mane And AlisonIn addition to the Anfield Cup atmosphere and the club’s undeniable pedigree in Europe as one of only four clubs to have won Europe’s biggest club competition more than five times.

The two things that amazed me [about Liverpool] She is the intense high pressure – they do it well – and the defensive line high. As a striker, it’s great to have a high defensive line behind you because it keeps you high on the field.”

Then there’s Virgil van Dijk’s character. Danjuma plays with him in Holland and knows him well.

“I want to play against the best to prove myself and test myself against the best. That’s why I’m playing this match. Obviously playing against Verg will be special for me because he’s the captain of the national team. I think it’s going to be better than him, but I want to put myself up against it.” The best. I think I’ve shown so far in my career that I can do some damage. I have to keep doing that and be consistent, so I’m looking forward to a match against someone on his profile.”

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Is it better to play against a friend and someone you know well – and who knows you well – or not?

“It’s a good question! I don’t know. Attacker versus defender is like chess. You have to be unpredictable.”

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Another touching note for Dangoma as this week marks his first return to England as a player, less than a year after leaving Bournemouth and the Championship in favor of Villarreal.

“England is great memories for me. It feels like homecoming,” he said. “I had a great two years there. It made me more mature, I developed a lot and took me to where I am now.

“For me, the Premier League will always be different from the rest of the world. It is the best league, and you want to compete there. The atmosphere in the stadiums is also very special. It was a privilege to play there and always special to come back.”

At the age of 25, this is arguably the biggest match of his career. There will be a lot more to come too, whether you’re a player at Villarreal or elsewhere. After only one season at La Ceramica, he attracted the interest of the biggest clubs in Europe. Paris Saint-Germain is a big fan; Danjuma has also impressed Manchester United this season and has been fantastic. He is still highly regarded in England, of course, and in Italy. If he plays hard against Liverpool, expect many clubs to sit down and take notice.

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