EUROPA LEAGUE: Granit Xhaka Q&A on the final, Baku, Arsenal’s wait for a European trophy and more
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka spoke at length during a Q&A at the club’s London Colney training base, before Wednesday’s Europa League final against Chelsea. Read on for his views on the Baku showpiece, Chelsea, working under Unai Emery and much more.
It's been a strange season for you
"Strange good or bad?"
"I think we had a good season until the last five games. We lost our way a little bit in the last five games, but if you're in the Europa League final and you can take a trophy, get into the Champions League - we will take that."
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Why the late season slump?
"I don't know. I don't speak about the past. I have to speak about the final, we can't change nothing in the Premier League, it's over. What we can change is winning the Europa League and being back in the Champions League."
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How important is the Champions League?
"If you see the club, we have to be in the Champions League. We didn't play there for two years and we have to be there next season."
Does it hurt?
"Of course. All the players, the fans, the club - we want to play against the best teams, and the best teams are in the Champions League. We want to be back there."
Have you discussed reaching the Champions League as a group by winning the Europa League - it's not just a cup final?
"Of course. We speak about the season, what was good, what was bad, what can happen if we win the Europa League. All the players want to be back in the Champions League."
It's been 25 years since Arsenal last won a Euro trophy...
"It's a lot, yeah. It's time to take a trophy. Arsenal, 25 years - it's a nice trophy, we want to do everything to take a trophy back to the club, for the fans, for us."
Is Baku a bigger game for Arsenal than Chelsea?
"Maybe. But if one team goes to the final, they don't think about being in the Champions League or not. They want to take the trophy as well. It's one game - 90 minutes, maybe longer, but we have to give everything to take this trophy."
Is it right that Baku hosts the final when Henrikh Mkhitaryan can't go?
"He told us today. He made a decision. It's disappointing because he's a great player, on the pitch, off the pitch, but we'll give everything to take the trophy for him as well, to make a nice party afterwards.
"We speak with him, not a lot, because the position is not ours, it's him. He made the decision, we have to accept that, and we have to do everything to win for him."
Will it be odd with only 3,700 fans?
"Yeah. It's not in our hands to speak about it. Of course it's disappointing for the fans, travel is so difficult. In a big stadium, It's not a lot."
You've travelled a long way this year is that an incentive to get into Champions League so you don't have to go to places like that?
"Travel is not the biggest problem. Of course, it's about the Champions League. There are teams in the Champions League you have to travel four or five hours to play."
Teams like BATE…They were in the Champion League last year.
"Maybe you have to play against them."
Emery's record in the Europa League- do you talk about it as players? Does it give you confidence?
"We don't speak about it to each other but he speaks with us about his own experience and how he won the trophy three times.
"It's a lot. I think he would be the first coach if wins a fourth so it's nice if you are alone at the top, yeah."
What's the secret? Is it because he always takes it seriously?
"A lot of experience, if you are three times in the final in the Europa League you have a lot of experience, know how you feeling, how is the pressure and I think anything else stays within our group. But he takes away the pressure but if you are in a final there is always pressure."
Emery's had a big job following a great manager?
"If you come to a club and come after a coach who was at this club for 22 years, you are new here, you have to change little things, big things, it's not so easy. If you see his first season, it was great, in my opinion, and if you can win a trophy and go back to the Champions League then I think it's the perfect season."
Four English teams competing in both finals - what that say about Premier League?
"It shows how strong the league it is. I think it is the strongest league in the world."
Better than Spain?
"I think so, I've never played in Spain, so I can't, but I've played in Germany, I've played here and I can only say in my experience that it is strong enough, the English league."
It's been a big gap from end of season to final?
"It was a long season, of course. We end the season maybe three weeks before the final and the last game in the Premier League but we are focused. In the first two weeks we have to be quiet, not think about the final but start today to think about the final and be more focused of course."
How much have you enjoyed this season under Unai?
"I've enjoyed all of my seasons since I've been here. It's not just about Unai. Before also with Arsene Wenger as well."
Would you say you've improved?
"You have to tell me. If you say that then I'm happy. It's normal when a team works well, the individuals work as well. It's a good season to have, yeah."
What did Unai say to the group during your huddle before training?
"To us? Not a lot. Only Mikhi, speaking about the decision."
What were the cheers about?
"Because it was Petr's birthday. That's why. But maybe [we can celebrate with him] with the trophy, after the last game as well. I hope so."
Is it important Aaron Ramsey is out in Baku supporting Arsenal?
"Of course, Aaron has been here for 11 years, if you are at one club for 11 years, you deserve to be there, deserve to win something because he has done a lot of good work for this club."