Mikel Arteta says it will be ‘extraordinary’ but ‘strange’ as Arsenal set to become the first Premier League side to welcome back fans this evening.
Arsenal host Rapid Vienna in the Europa League tonight in a fixture that will see supporters return for the first time in almost nine months, around 2000 fans expected at the Emirates after confirmation that the stadium was inside the Government’s tier two regionalised restrictions.
It is a welcome boost for the sport and comes following the news a coronavirus vaccine has been judged safe to use by the UK, in the first positive steps towards normality following an unprecedented year of events.
Arteta described the return of supporters – even in a vastly reduced capacity – as ‘extraordinary’ and has praised the club for their ‘amazing work’ in facilitating the return of fans at short notice for tonight’s clash with the Austrian outfit.
“It is going to be extraordinary to have them back, it will feel strange,” Arteta said at his pre match press conference. “The club has done amazing work to facilitate everybody at short notice to be able to attend the stadium and I am sure it will work really well.
“I am feeling sorry as well for thousands of fans that I am sure would like to make it, but can’t be there.
“We are ready to host as many as we possibly can. It is going to depend on how the pandemic develops, and the new measurements when we start to open things up a little bit and see how people react to that. Hopefully we can do that.
“Who knows how it is going to develop? What we can do as a club, we will do to our maximum obviously.”
Arsenal are likely to field a rotated side this evening having already secured qualification for the knockout stages, the north London side needing just a point to secure their progress as group winners.