Xhaka: Arsenal must break European title drought

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Xhaka: Arsenal must break European title drought
Steve Nicol says it’s tragic for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to be forced to miss out on the Europa League final in Baku due to safety concerns.

Granit Xhaka says “it’s time” that Arsenal won their first European trophy in 25 years ahead of their Europa League final against Chelsea on Wednesday.

The Gunners last lifted European silverware in 1994, when they beat Parma to win the Cup Winners’ Cup. Since then they have lost three finals; the same tournament the following year when Real Zaragoza beat them thanks to Nayim’s long-range lob, the 2000 UEFA Cup when they lost to Galatasaray on penalties, and the 2006 Champions League where they were defeated by Barcelona.

In that time, three English teams — Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool — have won eight European trophies between them, and Xhaka believes Arsenal’s place in that group is long overdue.

“It’s time to take a trophy,” Xhaka said, ahead of the final in Baku. “Arsenal, 25 years — we want to do everything to take a trophy back to the club, for the fans, for us.”

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Beating Chelsea will not only mean that European trophy, but a place in next season’s Champions League, something that has become just as important as the honour of winning the Europa League itself. Arsenal missed out on qualification through the league, finishing fifth in the Premier League, a point behind Tottenham.

“We have to be in the Champions League,” Xhaka said. “We haven’t played there for two years and we have to be there next season.

“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.”

Chelsea already have a place in Europe’s premier competition next season after their third-place finish in the Premier League, meaning the game arguably means more to Arsenal.

“Maybe,” Xhaka said, when that point was put to him. “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.”

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss the final having decided that tensions between his home country of Armenia and Azerbaijan make it unsafe for him to travel, but Xhaka suggested that this will provide extra motivation for the rest of the Arsenal players.

He said: “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 have a nice party afterwards.”

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