Unai Emery has criticised the decision to hold the Europa League final in Baku because of how difficult it is for Arsenal’s fans to get to the game.
At the time of writing the club have sold just over 3000 tickets, a paltry amount considering the size of the fanbase, the number of season ticket holders and members, and and it illustrates clearly the logistical nightmare it is for people to get to the capital of Azerbaijan.
On the day it was announced Henrikh Mkhitaryan would not travel due to concerns over safety and security, the Arsenal boss faced the press and addressed the issue of the game being staged so far away in a city without sufficient transport infrastructure to cope with the demands of two London based teams.
“The final is very important,” said the Spaniard. “It’s a shame that not all the supporters can travel to Baku, but they are going to be here at home, enjoying with us through the TV. We need to know that and play for them.
“I think our supporters want to come with us and enjoy with us in the stadium because there are not a lot of times you can play in a final in Europe. Every supporter wants to enjoy with the team in this country, but Baku is very far, and they will have to fly because there is not a possibility to drive there.
“It is expensive too. I prefer to be with them, to enjoy it with them, to have a big atmosphere with our supporters.
“I know Arsenal has a lot of fans around the world and I think in Baku there will be a lot of supporters from other countries closer to Baku and the stadium will be full with 70,000 people and supporters.
“But really our supporters in London, who are with us at Emirates Stadium and also in the Premier League, I prefer for them to be with us too in this final.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal have declared themselves ‘very disappointed’ and ‘sad’ over the decision to leave Mkhitaryan at home, and have written to UEFA expressing deep concerns.
One would hope we might hear more from the club on this matter, as those sentiments don’t really cover what an absolute disgrace it is that any player should be excluded from a game like this because of his nationality.
Not only that, Arsenal fans of long-standing have been refused entry into Azerbaijan because of their Armenian heritage.
None of this is covered sufficiently by an expression of disappointment.