Unai Emery says UEFA’s decision to switch the venue of Arsenal’s Europa League tie with Vorskla hasn’t unduly affected his side’s preparations.
The fixture was due to be played at the Ukrainian side’s home ground in Poltava but has been moved to the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in the capital Kiev after the government enforced martial law following a rise in tension with neighbours Russia.
On paper, the decision, which has been taken due to safety concerns, benefits the Gunners who, having landed in the country last night, no longer have to embark on a long coach journey.
“First of all, we need to respect Uefa’s decision because it’s not easy for Vorskla,” said Emery at last night’s pre-game press conference in Kiev.
“It’s not an easy decision for Uefa to make either. For us, yesterday we were preparing for our trip to Poltava and then awaiting the final decision in the evening.
“We made small changes in our training session in London and now we have just arrived. This decision, for us, is with all the respect.”
Emery travelled with a mix-and-match 20-man squad which includes 12 players from the club’s academy. That added to the fact that neither side will have a particularly big fan contingent in the vast 80,000 stadium could make for a weird atmosphere.
“It doesn’t change a lot for us to play here, only that we had to move to Kiev like the journalists and the Arsenal supporters who travelled,” added Emery.
“They travelled to Poltava and then had to come here for tomorrow. Then in 90 minutes, it’s not a very big change.
“It’s clear they [Vorskla] are playing in Ukraine and not in their town, but here in Kiev they can also move their supporters.
“In the 90 minutes, we want to do our work here. We want to prepare for Poltava with the respect to them.”
As of last night, there was still some doubt as to whether Vorskla would turn up in Kiev for the match. A spokesperson for the Ukrainian club said, “The Olympic Stadium hasn’t given us any kind of confirmation or any other kind of answer.”
The joys of the Europa League. 🚯