We head into Thursday’s final Europa League group-stage match with the pressure well and truly off for once. Having done the hard work to secure top spot, we should have the freedom to play our shots at Emirates Stadium.
But while our place in the knockout stage is secure, BATE have it all to play for - and they will come into the match on a high having secured a 12th successive league title. But not many will have been as tightly fought as this one, as they were reliant on a 94th-minute equaliser in their final league game to seal the trophy at the expense of rivals, Dinamo Minsk.
If the reverse fixture is anything to go by, we should expect an open affair with goals aplenty - and with the likes of Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott pushing for more Premier League minutes, we will not lack for motivation, even if we are already through.
Read on for a comprehensive pre-match briefing: we’ve got team news, exclusive quotes from Arsene Wenger, match facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.
Wenger on how his squad has performed in the Europa League…
“They’ve been absolutely outstanding. One of the positives of this season is that the behaviour of the squad is impeccable, and I said many times even in training when I play the team who played in the Europa League and the team who played in the Premier League, it’s very difficult to predict who will win the game. We have quality squad on very even ground, they are all very good and that’s why there’s no coincidence that we qualified.”
ARSENAL: Cazorla (ankle), Mustafi (thigh)
BATE BORISOV: No absentees
Tactical expert Michael Cox:
“Right back Alexei Rios has enjoyed an outstanding Europa League campaign, regularly storming forward on the overlap before swinging deep, curling crosses into the box. He’s managed three assists so far with his pinpoint crosses, and should be considered one of BATE’s main threats – although he can be exposed defensively against quick dribblers.”
THE LAST WORD
Wenger on being one of the favourites for the Europa League…
“I don’t much worry about that, I just think do we have a chance to win it? I would say yes, so let’s give it a go. It’s like the FA Cup, we go straight away to direct knockouts, so it’s important that we have a go and give absolutely everything to do it. That’s why it was good in the first round to give experience to everybody.”
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