The Europa League Remains A Priority
Manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the Europa League remains a priority for us this season, but the overriding focus continues to be the Premier League itself.
With a comfortable lead going into the second leg affair against Ostersunds later this evening, Wenger knows we are one step closer to lifting the trophy this season and he'd dearly love to see us do just that.
Speaking to the Official Site Wenger also spoke about how he felt the Europa League this year had been of benefit to us, rather than an unwanted distraction as he's been able to continually rotate players to keep them fresh.
'It is one of the priorities we have. There`s a long way to go. Firstly we have to qualify tomorrow and then after that see who we get if we go through. We are focused on doing well but ideally we want to get back into the Champions League through the Premier League.'
Talking about the benefits of the competition, he went on to say.
'It has been very useful, but as well they have shown me that they have the quality to compete. I think this competition has allowed them to gain confidence, to show the other players in the squad that these boys have the needed quality and they can put them under threat. Internal competition has raised as well the threat for everybody because the young players have always done well.'
With players continuing to be cup tied for the competition, Wenger fully expected that to change in the future as it certainly needs looking at again in terms of the rules and the clarity of them.
'It will be re-examined, I think. There`s a wave underneath with all the clubs who are fighting against that now because to be frustrated like that in the middle of the season, it doesn`t look right. When you look at the amount of money that is involved now with the transfers, it`s very difficult to defend. Everybody in Europe wants this rule to be changed.'
Conducting his pre game press interviews, Wenger confirmed that Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil will miss the last 32 affair. 29 year old Ozil has been ill this week and Ramsey continues to recover from a groin injury.
'There's still lots at stake. Ozil was in bed Monday and Tuesday. I would certainly have played him, but because he was sick he will have to work hard tomorrow and won't be involved.'
Whilst Ramsey misses this one, Wenger wouldn't yet rule the 27 year old Welshman out of the Cup Final against Manchester City this weekend but we will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan as he's cup tied.
Danny Welbeck has been confirmed as starting this evening with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup tied.
To end, Wenger discussed whether our opponents would play differently or approach the game in a different manner given our first leg advantage over them.
'In this game, there are two aspects that Ostersunds have shown us: they had a timid start, and we took advantage of it. But after, they showed that they are a good side. For us it`s absolutely vital to play well to have a chance to win the game. We play at home and we want to win the game. If you look at the results of Ostersunds in the Europa League, it`s quite impressive, home and away. That game for us demands respect. It would be absolutely stupid for us to think we go out there and have a stroll… we could have a bad surprise.'
'They have nothing to lose. I agree with you, they were a bit nervous at the start. We took advantage of it. After, the more the game went on, the more they showed their quality. The second half was quite even and we needed to fight until the end. They missed a penalty at the end and they are a dangerous side.'
Having admitted that forward Saman Ghoddos impressed him in the first leg, Wenger said he was a marvellous player both 'technically and tactically' but when asked if he would try and sign him.
'We are not in the transfer period, give me a little breather!'