By James Agberebi:
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has stated that his side must be at their very best against Ahmed Musa’s CSKA Moscow in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-finals tie on Thursday at the Emirates.
Arsenal’s only realistic chance of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League is to win this season’s Europa League.
They are currently sixth in the Premier League table on 51 points, 13 points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur who are fourth.
“We play against a team who has done well in Europe so we certainly need a top class performance,” Wenger said in his press conference on Wednesday ahead of the game against the Russian side.
“When you play at home in the first leg you don’t know what you have to achieve.
“You are a bit more in a situation where you have to defend well and attack well.”
Wenger admitted his side are under pressure to perform in Europe’s second-tier club competition.
He added: “There is some extra pressure on us to do extremely well in this competition but that’s part of being where we are.
“It’s an opportunity we want to take.
“We don’t live in dreamland. We are in the quarter-final and have to go step by step.”
He stressed the importance of keeping a clean sheet in the first leg at the Emirates.
“The weight of the away goal in Europe is important so ideally you don’t want to concede,” Wenger explained.
Following the decision by some fans of the club to stay away from the Emirates Stadium due to the team’s poor performance so far this season, Wenger expressed confidence that it would not affect his players come Thursday.
He said: “I’m not worried.
“The crowd, when something is at stake, is always there and always behind us.
“What will decide the attitude of the crowd is the quality of our game.”
On Alexandre Lacazette’s readiness to lead the attack line for Arsenal against CSKA, Wenger said: “We have basically everybody available I think…
“Lacazette is ready to start, yes.
“I have not decided will he start but he is available and ready to start.”
And on whether he is interested in CSKA’s midfield star Aleksandr Golovin who has been linked to Arsenal in the past, Wenger said: “It’s not the case at the moment and I don’t think it would be appropriate to speak about a CSKA player the day before the game.”