Wenger says Arsenal’s Europa League final in Baku ‘a little bit of a nightmare’
Former manager disappointed that Mkhitaryan feels obliged not to travel because of safety concerns
Former Arsenal’s manager Arsène Wenger: he feels for supporters who have abandoned hope of attending the final because travel has proved so expensive. Photograph: Getty Images
Arsène Wenger has described Arsenal’s predicament in heading to Baku for the Europa League final as “a little bit of a nightmare”. The club’s former manager, who left last summer after 22 years, expressed disappointment that Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who signed under Wenger, feels obliged not to travel because of safety concerns.
Armenians are not ordinarily welcome in Azerbaijan because of the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and Mkhitaryan has spoken of his hurt to miss such a showpiece occasion.
“That’s something that should not happen in football, in the modern world, that politically you cannot play a football game,” Wenger said.
He also feels for the supporters who have abandoned hope of attending the final because travel, rather than tickets, has proved so expensive and complicated. It is an unusual situation for clubs of this stature and fanbase not to sell out their allocation for a final. Arsenal have sold 3,500 tickets and Chelsea 2,000.
“The teams do not have such a problem, they live in ideal conditions, they have a private jet; it’s the fans,” Wenger said.
He will watch from the background, as he has for all of this season under Unai Emery, so as not to cast a shadow on his successor.
“I support Arsenal and that will be forever. They are my club. I have given my life to this club, but I managed quite well to focus on something different. I watch them like a fan. I don’t judge. I’m happy when they win and not happy when they don’t play well. But after that I try to really take a distance with it.”
Wenger, who has turned down several job offers, is ready to return to the game.
“I will go back into football for sure. In what position I don’t know, whether as a manager or not. The appetite, the desire, is still there. Originally I said I want to manage straight away again. After that I thought maybe I take a little distance. Football is still my passion.”