Maurizio Sarri to remember Baku for life

Mikhail Simonov, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza
Maurizio Sarri to remember Baku for life

The glorious city of Baku hosted the finals of the second most prestigious European club football tournament. The final match of the UEFA Europa League season 2018-2019 was held between two London clubs - Chelsea and Arsenal. The confrontation was accompanied by a lot of fuss, unnecessary excitement and certain politicization. A few more touches  without going back to it in detail.

It is difficult to understand how and why some people gave in to Henrikh Mkhitaryan T-shirts provocations and started to play directly into those who shouted louder than others about Azerbaijan's "discriminatory policy". And it's clear that it was a provocation in some cases. One can understand Arsenal fans, wearing T-shirts with the Armenian football player's name. They could wear them because of their great love for Mkhitaryan (although his play can hardly evoke such feelings, at least this season). But when a Russian journalist takes such a t-shirt to the stadium, the task is generally clear. And the fact that since Thursday morning some websites went into hysterics due to the fact that this guy had a little incident with men in uniform over a shirt is evidence that the goal was reached.

In such a scenario, its participants will not recall that the receiving party has done everything in its power. Security guarantees for Henrikh Mkhitaryan? You're welcome - the government (!) has given guarantees. He still decided not to go? Well, it's up to him and his club - Arsenal.

Despite the Internet buzzing, we must admit that the Azerbaijani authorities were more perspicacious and, understanding the essence of the provocation, ordered the police not to react to fans wearing T-shirts with the Arsenal player's name. The video was published showing surprised policemen peacefully talking with fans wearing T-shirts with a photo of Mkhitaryan: police officers quickly talked with the fans, reported this to a senior officer and everyone dispersed.

The second point is actually the organization of the match. After the match, they suddenly started criticizing the Baku stadium. And football officials are also taking the trouble to do it. In this regard, it is difficult to agree with the journalists, many of whom have never been at this stadium. And I want to ask talkative officials: what were they thinking when they decided to hold a match in Baku. After all, UEFA experts chose this stadium among thousands of others, guided by the football stadium requirements. Therefore, it would be better for these critics to stop telling lies for the sake of cheap populism.

Empty seat in the stands? This is also a question for UEFA, which sets the lower limit for the cost of tickets. And Baku hosted the Europa League final at a decent level, once again confirming the glory of Azerbaijani hospitality and warmth.

Now about the match. When the final score is 4:1, there's little to talk about. Although, the first half, which saw a close contest as a whole, did not prepared for such a defeat. But its ending showed that Chelsea was stronger. If not in general, then in this particular match. Two attacks taken by the "blue" shortly before the break posed a markedly greater threat than all the attempts of the "red" to make something nice near the rival's goal.

And in the second half, it dawned on the world champion Olivier Giroud. They used to criticize a powerful Frenchman for lack of skill, for a not so high conversion rate, which he could have with a number of chances given to him. And even at the World Cup in Russia, he was mocked: in a view of a rather productive play of the French team, Giroud, being the only real French striker, was not marked with either a goal or an assist. But these "wits" completely forget about the crazy amount of work performed by this striker, about his immaculate game discipline and work ethic - according to the plan of future world champion coach Didier Deschamps, Giroud had to get his claws into every ball, cling to it, being first to press if he loses it, move back, and in the case of the rival's set pieces fall into his penalty area to neutralize high crosses. And he did it selflessly and without mistakes, wasting a lot of strength every minute he spent on the pitch in the triumphal seven matches of the French national team. Along with Griezmann and Mbappe, Giroud was the most useful player in the world champions. Yes, he failed to score - it happens, but his partners did.

Yesterday, Giroud silenced his foes. He scored the most important first goal, and did not greed, he assisted Chelsea leader Hazard from a very complicated position. And the "blue" leading attacker did not miss, smashing to pieces the Gunners' hopes that appeared after their single goal.

But Hazard's opponent failed completely. And it's one of the reasons for Arsenal's "lack of teeth". Forwards Aubameyang and Lacazette, who are certainly formidable, spent almost the whole game without a ball, trying to do something sometimes, but unsuccessfully. It's like Özil, who was supposed to provide his attackers with the ball and be creative during the match, was absent. In general, Özil made everything necessary to update the question of how would Arsenal play if Mkhitaryan was part of the team? Say what you will about, but I think the most correct answer is: if it was better with him, then not by much.

Because Chelsea were better prepared for the match. Because Chelsea have a longer bench. Finally, because Chelsea turned out to have a more motivated ... manager. Yes, Maurizio Sarri - a former bank employee, 60, had no single victory until yesterday. Given the fierce competition at the EFL Championship and in the European arena, he, of course, understood that the Baku match is perhaps his only lucky chance of winning as a coach. The over-motivated coach seems to have found the right words for his players, which were better and more accurate than Arsenal manager Unai Emery's words, who has won the Europa League for three seasons in a row, leading the Spanish Seville. Yesterday's match, of course, does not mean that Emery is fed up with the Europa League victories, he only showed that Chelsea was stronger than Arsenal in the capital of Azerbaijan. And in the whole season: Chelsea are in the third place in the Premier League, lost the English Cup final to Manchester City - the permanent champion of recent years, and in the next euro season will play in the Champions League, while Arsenal is only the fifth in England, and will try its fate in the Europa League once again.