The excitement is building ahead of the Europa League final against Chelsea among everyone connected with the club.
Laura Woods sat down with our managing director, Vinai Venkatesham, and head of football Raul Sanllehi to discuss the match in Baku.
Read on for what they had to say:
LW: So we’re heading towards the Europa League final, which first of all is a huge achievement and the fanbase are absolutely overjoyed. What are your thoughts on making that final?
VV: Everyone at Arsenal is hugely excited. To be in a major European final is a really exciting moment and it’s been a while since we’ve been in one, so we don’t take these things for granted. We’ve got a bit of a wait until we get to that final, but we’re counting down the days and we just can’t wait to get there.
RS: I’d like also to mention on this that the Europa League is probably one of Unai’s preferred areas and comfort zones! He’s won it three times already, he’s never lost a final, and we’re hoping that that streak continues. From day one, when we were talking with him, he was already talking about this season when we were talking about the objective to qualify for the Champions League, and he would always mention the Europa League in our objectives. He was very clear - he wanted this title. We’ve got to the final and we’re extremely excited. There’s not so many finals you get over time, so we’re really excited and hoping that we can deliver that to our fans. We extremely believe in the capabilities of the team, and definitely in the capabilities of our head coach to lift that trophy.
LW: With this huge level of anticipation and excitement, making a final, it also comes with its problems because it will be staged in Baku, and we know there’s only 6,000 tickets for the fanbases of Arsenal and Chelsea. What was your reaction to that?
VV: Of course we accept and acknowledge that the venue for a European final is always set well in advance, and it’s certainly set in advance of when you know who’s going to get to the final. We went to Baku earlier this season when we were in the group stages and we played Qarabag. It’s a beautiful city and the people of Baku are hugely welcoming. But I would say that, from a club perspective, we are really disappointed that we have ended up in a situation where we are playing in a major European final and, because of travel issues, the maximum number of tickets that can be made available to fans of both clubs is 6,000. So we’re going to be playing in a stadium that is bigger than Emirates Stadium and both clubs are only going to get 6,000 tickets. It’s hugely disappointing. The issue is more acute for a club like Arsenal because we’re so well supported and we have more than 45,000 season ticket holders, but the reality is that whoever got to the final would need more than 6,000 tickets. So it’s really disappointing and we’ve been receiving calls and letters and much more from fans who are heartbroken because they’re not able to go to the final, despite following Arsenal home and away for so many years. So we have written to Uefa about this, and we’ve asked them to explain the process by which the venue for the final is determined, and how they are taking into account match-going fans in making that decision, because we want to make sure that Arsenal - and actually all clubs in Uefa competitions - aren’t in this situation. As I said, it’s really, really disappointing for us, for the players and also for the fans.
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