The winner of the Armenian Cup, Ararat Yerevan, is currently training at the sports base in Dzorakhbyur, preparing for the first qualifying round of the Conference League. Before the most important match, leading players left the Yerevan team, including striker Uros Nenadovic and midfielder David Khurtsidze. Nevertheless, the Yerevan team is also replenishing the squad. Midfielder Alik Arakelyan has joined the team, striker Serge Deble will also join the team, another 6-7 players are already in the Yerevan team, which will be officially announced in the near future.
ArmSport.am had a conversation with the head coach of the Yerevan team Vardan Bichakhchyan about the preparation for the Conference Cup, about last season, upcoming plans, and other topics.
How do you summarize the overall championship? What was it like for Ararat?
- Since March last year, the whole world has mixed with each other in connection with the coronavirus, and Armenia was no exception. Firstly, we completed the last season in a very short time and it was in the conditions of the coronavirus that we started a new championship, at the start of which there were already people infected with the coronavirus in the team, which caused many players to miss for a long time. However, we were no exception, all teams had a similar problem. Then the war followed.
It was very difficult psychologically, and it is still difficult, but somehow we were able to complete the first part of the championship. If I try to give an overall assessment, at the end of the championship we had a real chance to become a champion. Unfortunately, we couldn't. There were postponed matches of the first round, which we held in large numbers in May. This year we fought on two fronts-the championships and the Cup. After winning the cup, we had injuries, we lost the guys on the attacking line. In short, having real chances, we could not become champions. And in general, I can consider the season satisfactory, given that we became Cup winners and won a ticket to the Conference League.
- Before the European Cup match, the team left a number of leaders. What additions will be to the team?
- First, I will say that during or after the end of any season, such changes occur. In our case, the problem was different. They were considered key players, and I really wanted them to stay in the team, but since the contracts were completed, according to my information, the club and the players did not come to a common denominator and the club wished good luck to these players in their future careers. There are no irreplaceable people in any field. Normally, this is not the first time we have encountered such a problem. And in Shirak, after the opening of each transfer window, we had similar cases, and we did not prevent the players from leaving the team. New ones came and managed to quickly create a situation to adapt to the team. Now we are preparing for European competitions. We haven't finally formed a team yet. Now we have 6-7 new Armenian football players. We will be joined by Serge Deble, who is a very serious reinforcement, given that Uros Nenadovic has left. It would be desirable that we could also strengthen the position of the defensive midfielder and we are working in this direction. Now we are concerned about the injury of Edgar Malakyan, he is already training according to the individual program and we are waiting for him to join the team. We are in the process, and within a few days, the team will have a final look.
- How difficult is it for a coach to prepare for European Cup games with new players in a short time?
- In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult tasks of a coach, because without having time, you must be able to close these gaps, therefore, it is important that these changes are complete in order to be able to fill this gap very quickly. But many things do not depend on us. Since there are club-player negotiations everywhere, and we are not excluded, all teams are in this situation. There are such things in any place. Let's see how much we can prepare for this short term.
- What can you say about the draw for the Conference Cup?
- On the first day of the draw, we learned about our possible opponents. There were 4 teams, and, in my opinion, we got the strongest opponent out of these 4. We study the opponent and have a good impression. It is no coincidence that 3-4 people from this team are now participating in the European Championship as part of their national teams. In any case, if there are several national team players in the team, it says a lot. Now we are more focused to be able to complete our team. We played the first test match with Alashkert and stayed for one match with Urartu. It is very desirable that a team is formed before this game so that we can test our tactical tasks in this game.
-At the end of the current season, there were a lot of talks that you might return to Shirak. Was there such a proposal?
- There was no such conversation at all. At the moment, I am the head of Ararat. We are preparing for important games. I don't pay attention to conversations, and I haven't had an offer from any club at all. At the moment, we are preparing for the Conference League. My contract with the club expires on August 1 and there were no talks about its extension. That's the last thing I'm interested in right now. Now we are focused only on the drawing of conferences.
- What positive changes have taken place in the Armenian championship in recent years?
- Our championship is a rather specific championship. Considering the fact that more than half of the teams are fighting for the championship and the teams have quite strengthened. Nothing is guaranteed in all matches. The matches against Pyunik, Van, Shirak this season were clear proof of this. In this regard, there was an unpredictable championship, and if the standings are highlighted in other countries after 10-15 matches, we have a chaotic situation until the last round. The level of the championship, in my opinion, has risen. It depends both on the presence of foreign players and on the Armenian football players. Since the coach of the Armenian national team pays great attention to everyone today, and if Armenian football players, playing in the Armenian championship, dream of being in the national team, realizing all this, they try to provide greater motivation, due to which our championship has positive progress.
- What do you say about the restriction of legionnaires? How justified is the Federation's decision regarding certain restrictions?
- This year, the Federation has increased the mandatory number of two Armenian football players in the starting line-up to three, but it seems to me that the pace has slowed down. I am definitely in favor of limiting legionnaires. If you pay attention to Shirak, at least the year before last, look at Ararat, you will see that in many cases five Armenian players were in our starting line-up on the field. If 70% of the team will be foreigners, and 30% - Armenians, and even then in order to be mandatory in the application, I do not accept it. Every Armenian team should have an Armenian breath. I agree that high-quality legionnaires are required, but not more than as many as necessary.