Reflections ahead of the Europa League Final

Exactly who will be in attendance in Baku and why Arsenal are considered underdogs

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The expense and difficulty of getting to Baku will see plenty of empty seats on Wednesday evening

So the news has been released that Chelsea had sent back 4,000 of their 6,000 Europa League Final allocation and Arsenal have sent back 2,000 of theirs. My suspicion is that, were it a Champions League Final, both sides would have sold out, but the reality is that Baku would never have been handed the bigger final, due to the lack of numbers it can process through the city’s airport.

There’s no question the sheer expense is the main reason for the lack of take up. That only a limited number of flights can land in the hours before the match means that, in terms of travel, the law of supply and demand comes in. So premium prices are being asked for those that have decided to make the journey. And some of them may well be hanging around in Baku airport a long way into the following day, not having stayed in a hotel for the night to save on cost. Some will have seen their team lose and want to get out of the place as soon as possible, but face purgatory instead.

Mauritzio Sarri’s side are the clear favourites with Coral betting to lift the trophy (currently 4/6 with Arsenal at 6/5), but it was a similar situation for the game at Wembley. The bookies presumably favour Chelsea based on the poor European record of Arsenal in recent seasons, although this does not take account of Unai Emery’s incredible record in the competition, having won it three times with Sevilla before his move to Paris St Germain and the more testing ground of the Champions League.

The anytime scorer market has Eden Hazard as the 8/5 favourite to get a goal at some point in the game, with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang a fraction longer at 13/8. His strike partner Alexandre Lacazette is 21/10. There’s little question that Hazard is Chelsea’s main attacking threat, and you’d be on fairly safe ground if you felt Arsenal were unable to keep a clean sheet, so both teams to score wouldn’t be the worst of bets. The Gunners’ chances of winning the trophy and the attendant reward of Champions League qualification will almost certainly be tied to how good a job they do of keeping Hazard quiet.

They did manage it when Chelsea visited the Emirates in the league this season and were defeated 2-0, and the last time the two sides met in a final, back in 2017, although they did concede, the Gunners were even bigger underdogs, Chelsea having just won the league. They were of course helped by the red card for Victor Moses after 68 minutes, but were already a goal up by that time.

There will be a lot more empty seats in Azerbaijan than there were at Wembley. Aside from the two clubs returning tickets, the sponsors have done the same with a sizeable number of their allocation being returned to UEFA. Given sponsor guests would be flying in from all over Europe, it gives you an idea how difficult it is to get to Baku, with guests presumably being offered free travel as part of the perk.

What may lift the atmosphere is the sheer number of Arsenal and Chelsea fans from Eastern Europe in the ‘neutral’ seats. We’ve seen big numbers of more ‘local’ fans in the Arsenal sections when the club has played in a country that was under Communist rule 30 years ago. Given the size of the match, many will make the journey to Baku, swelling the support. The only drawback is that they will be dotted around the stadium, although the sheer number of empty seats will probably allow them to congregate.

It’s hardly the best of venues to watch a football match as a stadium. Looks great from the outside, sure. And the capacity is big enough. But the athletics track surround is not going to do wonders for what atmosphere the two sets of fans manage to create. It’s going to be a strange final alright, but let’s just hope it’s one that Arsenal can win, with the stakes so high for the club. Another season without Champions League participation does not bear thinking about, and would have sever impact on what they can do to improve the squad this summer

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  1. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    May 27, 2019, 14:49 #113910

    Strange no mention in these pages of Anfield 89

  2. John F

    May 27, 2019, 13:45 #113909

    With Newcastle on the verge of being taken over by sheikh who is going to bankroll the club like his cousin at City it looks like we are going to fall even further down the pecking order.Leeds are also on the verge of a takeover by a middle eastern syndicate.

  3. markymark

    May 27, 2019, 13:45 #113908

    Big Andy - that’s the spirit! But I’m not so sure. Listening to the execs (Vinai and Raul ) on the recent interview I felt it’s almost like they thought it was in the bag. Chelsea are world champion spoilers . It goes for with their fans who probably all were horrid Henry’s from childhood . They’ve messed up Spurs on numerous occasions. They’d like nothing more than to spoil our party . Interesting to see they’ve returned twice as many tickets as Arsenal have . A reflection on their true fanbase I’d say. We need Lacazette and Auba to be sharp and Mustafi and probably Xhaka safely sat on the bench to have a chance of winning

  4. Moscowgooner

    May 27, 2019, 12:17 #113907

    Nut flush gooner - Baku might theoretically be in Asia but it's not much easier/cheaper to get to from Hong Kong, Beijing, Malaysia, Singapore etc (ie the main pockets of Arsenal support) than London.....

  5. Big Andy

    May 27, 2019, 09:33 #113906

    I'll be massively disappointed if we don't beat Chelsea. Our recent record against them away from Stamford Bridge is excellent and they have been a very average side this season. If we take our European form into this match then we should see them off with no problem. Both Napoli and Valencia are better sides than Chelsea, and we did the double over them. Chelsea's injuries are piling up, with Kante the latest withdrawal, and Sarri is the worst Blues manager since Abramovich bought the club. Apart from the loss of Ramsey we have a full-strength squad, and a manager who knows how to win this trophy. We should take this no problem.

  6. mbg

    May 26, 2019, 21:23 #113903

    I doubt very much favourites matter in this game, the meedga had to pick someone, we've a great chance for European glory now, it's just a damm shame all the rank and file deserving fans won't get to be there but I suppose if/when we win it that won't stop the celebrations. Yes a half empty stadium would be a good kick in the arse for FIFA. Come on you gooners.

  7. nut flush gooner

    May 26, 2019, 14:44 #113902

    I expect there to be more than 10,000 Arsenal fans there. With local fan associations and it not being that far from Asia (well it is really in Asia) there are thousands of fans that will probably never get this opportunity to see their team live in a major final again. I am not aware of Chelsea having the same international pull, despite their trophy haul in recent years.