Arsenal boss Arteta defiant on European qualification; calls on big names to produce ‘magic’

Mikel Arteta insists he has not contemplated Arsenal failing to qualify for Europe next season and urged his big-game players to create the “magic moments” necessary to keep their Europa League dream alive.

Arsenal head into Thursday night’s quarterfinal, second leg against Slavia Prague knowing they have to score at least once after drawing the first game 1-1 at Emirates Stadium.

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With the team languishing in ninth place in the Premier League, Arsenal’s only realistic hope of securing European football next season is in winning the Europa League, an achievement which would also provide vital funds for Arteta’s rebuild.

He has previously said he is devising transfer plans based on a variety of scenarios but when asked whether one of those was an absence of Champions League and Europa League football next season, the 39-year-old said: “No, because I don’t want to put [it into] my mind and transmit any of that to anybody, any of the players or anybody at the club.”

Arsenal will make a late call on the fitness of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he recovers from an unspecified illness while Martin Odegaard is a doubt with an ankle problem.

Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are available and Arteta said: “In big games, big players have to step in and create the magic moments. You need that. Let’s hope we can have them.

“Someone has to create when the team needs those moments. We’ve had moments in the season when it has been the senior players and other moments when it has been the young players. It doesn’t really matter.”

Goalkeeper Bernd Leno has hinted he could be open to leaving the club when his current contract expires in 2023.

The 29-year-old has started 41 of Arsenal’s 48 games across all competitions this term and he said: “I think at the moment it is not the time to speak about the future. I know that I have still two years contract left. I am also 29, I think for a goalkeeper this is not too old.

“So I still have some years to go. I am very happy at the club, I don’t know what will come in the future. But I am open to everything. Maybe for a new adventure or to stay at Arsenal. Like I said, at the moment I don’t think about my future because two years is still a long time. At the moment there are no conversations with the club or something else.”

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