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Wishful thinking for Wenger in the Europa League

Passage back to the elite can only come one way now for Arsenal

Image Credit: Reuters
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and head of performance Shad Forsythe during training
Gulf News

Dubai: The Europa League may be the second-tier tournament in European football, but for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal it means so much more.

The pressure is back on the Gunners manager — was it ever really off? — after yet another poor season domestically that has all the hallmarks of a club going backwards.

When you add to the mediocre league form a humiliating departure from the FA Cup and the departure of Alexis Sanchez to rivals Manchester United, things look more grim for a coach who will once again have his position reviewed in the summer.

Yes, Arsenal are in the League Cup final after beating Chelsea in the semis ... but it’s the League Cup.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Europa League was similarly derided and disrespected by England’s elite, but the lure of a pass into the Champions League for the winners has made teams sit up and take it more seriously.

Arsenal missed out on mixing it with Barcelona, Real Madrid and their old pals Bayern Munich in the group stages of Europe’s top competition this campaign and Wenger will be desperate to avoid being absent once again.

Passage back is looking more doubtful via the Premier League top four — Arsenal are eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea — so Europa success has become even more vital for the beleaguered Frenchman.

With Alexandre Lacazette ruled out for six weeks and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ineligible, Danny Welbeck will be on his own up front against Ostersunds.

How Wenger needs him to deliver the goods to avoid another embarrassing defeat.

Europa League

Fixtures (UAE time)

Astana v Sporting CP (8pm)

Olympique Marseille v Sporting Braga (10pm)

Nice v Lokomotiv Moskva (10pm)

Real Sociedad v Salzburg (10pm)

Spartak Moscow v Athletic Club (10pm)

Ludogorets v Milan (10pm)

Borussia Dortmund v Atalanta (10pm)

Ostersunds FK v Arsenal (10pm)

Lyon v Villarreal (12.05am)

Copenhagen v Atletico Madrid (12.05am)

Partizan v Viktoria Plzen (12.05am)

AEK Athens v Dynamo Kiev (12.05am)

FCSB v Lazio (12.05am)

Napoli v RB Leipzig (12.05am)

Celtic v Zenit (12.05am)