Arsenal v CSKA Moscow preview: Arsene Wenger hopes Gunners can take belief from upturn in form
Last Updated: 05/04/18 6:42pm
Arsene Wenger has a fully-fit squad to choose from ahead of Arsenal's Europa League quarter-final first leg at home to CSKA Moscow on Thursday (kick-off 8.05pm).
The Gunners suffered a dip in form earlier in the season, including league defeats to Manchester City and Brighton as well as being beaten at the Emirates by Swedish minnows Ostersunds FK in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Among those results was a 3-0 humbling by Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, but after home and away wins over AC Milan in the Europa League and another two Premier League victories, Arsene Wenger has found positives - although they played in front of another sparse crowd during Sunday's 3-0 win over Stoke City.
"We were very disappointed with our result against [Manchester] City," said Wenger. "It takes time to grieve and to recover.
"But because the mentality in the team is very good, strong and healthy - we're recovered.
"I think you always judge a team by the way they come out of a crisis. On that front I believe that is very positive on our side.
"There's some extra pressure on us to do extremely well in this competition but that's part of being where we are.
"We have to see it in a way it's an opportunity we want to take and keep the priorities right and of course focus on how well we play together, how we want to play."
Despite a fully-fit squad, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied. Santi Cazorla (Achilles) remains a long-term absentee.
Alexandre Lacazette is in contention for his first start since January following a knee problem, while Petr Cech (groin) and Danny Welbeck (back) have overcome minor knocks to stake their claims.
These two sides have met just twice before in European competition, with Arsenal drawing blanks in the 2006-07 Champions League group stages - losing 0-1 away then drawing 0-0 at home.
This is Arsenal's first quarter-final tie in European competition since 2009-10 (v Barcelona in the Champions League), while they haven't advanced from one since the season prior to that (v Villarreal in 2008-09).
The Gunners haven't lost the first leg of a quarter-final tie in European competition since March 1972 (v Ajax in the European Cup), winning four and drawing six of the 10 they've been involved in since.
CSKA Moscow have reached the quarter-finals of a European competition for just the third time in their history - losing at this stage in the 2009-10 Champions League, although they won the UEFA Cup in 2004-05.
Arsenal are the top-scoring team in the Europa League this season, scoring 23 goals at an average of 2.3 per game. The Gunners have had more different goalscorers than any other Europa League team in 2017/18, with 15 of their 27 outfield players used finding the net.
Mesut Ozil averages an assist every 114 minutes in the Europa League; the best ratio of any player in competition history (min. 10 appearances).
Igor Akinfeev has kept a clean sheet in three of his last six European games (excluding qualifiers), as many as he had kept in his previous 36. In fact, the Russian was in goal for CSKA when these sides met in 2006-07 Champions League group stage, keeping a clean sheet in both contests.
Arsenal were bog standard at the weekend but somehow managed to come out of it with some momentum thanks to the three late goals against Stoke.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is obviously a miss as he is cup-tied but it was good to see his team spirit letting Alexandre Lacazette take the second penalty.
I'd like to see Arsenal finish the league season the way they rounded that game off, with Aubameyang coming in off the left and Lacazette central - surely that is the reason Arsene Wenger signed both?
However, that obviously can't happen on Thursday night, so Danny Welbeck will keep his place on the left and hopefully get his name back on the scoresheet.
It is too early for Arsenal to be getting ahead of themselves and thinking about winning this trophy yet - the focus must be on getting a good win heading to Moscow and avoiding another difficult situation.
Charlie predicts: 3-0 and Lacazette to score first (19/1 with Sky Bet)