Arsene Wenger not thinking about following in Jose Mourinho’s footsteps ahead of Europa League clash at Ostersunds
PUBLISHED: 13:00 14 February 2018
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The Gunners boss is not a fan of club’s qualifying for the Champions League by winning the Europa League, but it may be Arsenal’s only choice soon
Arsenal will be without Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when they take on Ostersunds in the last-32 of the Europa League on Thursday (6pm kick-off).
The Gunners are in Sweden to take on the club managed by Englishmen Graham Potter with temperatures set to be below freezing when the game commences at the Jamtkraft Arena.
But the cold weather is the least of Arsene Wenger’s problems with both of his top strikers unavailable for the clash tomorrow evening.
Aubameyang is ineligible because his former club Borussia Dortmund are now in the Europa League and rule 44.2 states a club can’t register a new player if his old side are in the same competition and the player in question has already played for them in a group stage European fixture.
In addition to this, Arsenal were rocked by the news that Lacazette is set to miss the next four to six weeks with an injury.
The Frenchmen had an arthroscopy on his left knee on Tuesday with the minor procedure described as a “success” by the club, but he will not play again until March at the earliest.
It means Danny Welbeck is set to lead the line for Arsenal in Sweden, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan can feature against Ostersunds.
January signing Mkhitaryan helped Manchester United win the Europa League last season by scoring six goals in the competition.
Jose Mourinho’s team defeated Ajax in the final last May and it secured Champions League football despite them finishing sixth in the division.
As things stand, triumphing in the Europa League this time around may be Arsenal’s best chance of ensuring they play with Europe’s elite again next season.
But Wenger isn’t thinking like that yet, he said: “It’s too early. Football is not about switching off for three games and switching on for one game.
“Man United decided that once they were in the semi-final, we are far from the semi-final and I think we have to fight to have a chance to come back (in the league).
“The priority has to be to be in the Champions League through the Premier League. I’m not a great fan of qualifying for the Champions League through the Europa League because I don’t think it’s right.
“But if it’s an opportunity, we have to try and take it as well, although the priority is still to do it through the Premier League.”