How important is the Europa League for this generation and the football club?
Well huge, because the club has to be represented in Europe, that’s 100%. And ideally obviously in the Champions League. The thing is that the competition in this league now it’s so big that a few teams who took this for granted for many, many years it’s not the case anymore. So now the Europa League becomes a huge competition. If you see how the competition has evolved in the last four or five years with the teams involved, you will say that it’s another Champions League competition even if people doesn’t treat it that way. For us it’s vital. We want to carry on playing in the competition. It’s a trophy and we’re gonna go for it.
Arsenal in terms of prestige have to be in Europe don’t they?
How important is Granit Xhaka to the team and why do you think some fans have never really appreciated him?
I think it’s more related, at least since I’ve been here and I know more about what happened in the past about the incidents you are talking about that have left some people disappointed or expecting a different reaction or not liking what happened. We talk about what happened this season in terms of performances and consistency. I think he’s even better than last season. Certainly after the Burnley game I think he made another step forward and he’s played because he deserves to play.
In terms of your style is he unique with what he brings to the team?
Well on that left side he gives you something that he has unique qualities to do that, considering as well the qualities we have in our left back position with Kieran. And it’s good because they compliment each other really, really well. We can tweak it and do it in different ways but it’s not only about his qualities as a player but the character and the personality that he brings to the team every time he steps in.
How difficult is to convince fans, given the club’s Champions League history, that the Europa League is a competition worth being in?
I think it’s impossible to convince them that the Europa League is the Champions League because it’s not and the history of this club is about being successful and winning the Premier League and winning the Champions League. But knowing the past and the difficulty we’ve been through in the last few years this becomes a really important competition for us. We all start to realise, maybe it’s still too early, but if we manage to do something in this competition, we are going to be happy about it definitely. We try to convince them with the performances and reaching the levels that we want.
Next season there will be two places in the Europa League and then there’s the Europa Conference League for the third team, are you worried about being in that one next season?
Well I’m worried because we still have a lot of work to do in the league to get close to those positions. It’s still mathematically possible but we need to be much more consistent to do that so I’m worried about tomorrow first and then let’s go to Leicester and try to win and let’s see how we can finish the season.
It seems that after 2024 we might see more of the bigger clubs guaranteed places in the Champions League by coefficients. Do you think that’s a healthy direction for the league to go?
I don’t know we need to know more detail and more explanation about what the final idea is. We need to maintain some detail of the merits that you have to achieve to enter the competition. But as well obviously with this pandemic and the evolution of the industry, it probably needs some changes as well to make it sustainable and attractive again. It’s like everything, probably in a few years’ time we will talk about something very normal with the teams with the changes that happen in May. But hopefully we can click the right button and nail it.
What would you change if you could?
Certainly the fixtures at the moment. The amount of games that the players have to play with very little rest and then the pressure they have to deal with as well with the national teams and the competitions it’s too condensed at the moment. I think we are risking the players and the quality of the game so in my opinion that should be the priority.
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