Arsenal play the second leg of their Europa League clash against AC Milan on Thursday. They have a strong lead that shouldn’t prove too difficult to preserve and possibly add to at the Emirates, in order to secure passage into the quarterfinals. But given recent experiences, Arsene Wenger’s men will have to be on top of their game again to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Speaking to the press ahead of the match, Wenger gave some updates on players’ fitness issues, as well as some information regarding their contracts situations.
Several players have had their fitness tested, and everyone except Alexandre Lacazette should be available for selection.
Lacazette is on the right track, he has started full training and should be available soon, but not on Thursday.
Wenger says Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been very well received and has adapted well to the new surroundings, helped by the quality he possesses as a player and also by his previous experiences. He also stresses that his Europa League record is of no importance and that the way he performs with this team is crucial.
Asked about what Per Mertesacker said about stress, the Gunners manager responded that none of those things came as a surprise to him. He said that professional footballers these days face a huge level of expectation, mostly from themselves. That, coupled with the expectations of the environment, creates a lot of stress to which the players need to develop a sufficient level of resistance. He also added that the pressure of whether a player’s body can handle everything that’s asked of it and whether it will respond well adds even more stress.
Jack Wilshere is out of contract this summer and has already been linked with several clubs, including Everton and Arsenal’s Thursday opponents AC Milan. Wenger says there have been no fresh developments of the situation and that he hopes the midfielder will eventually sign the new deal that is being offered to him. He also hopes Wilshere will be a part of the England squad for the World Cup.
The Frenchman was asked to compare going out of the Champions League in the round of 16 and going on in the Europa League, to which he replied the two experiences were incomparable and that the Europa League at this stage is probably at a level higher than ever before.
In the end the manager said that consistency is a sign of quality, and that it was difficult but important to turn a corner from the earlier poor results.
Arsenal can be backed at 21/20 to win the second leg against Milan.