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Monday, 22 October, 2018

Arsene Wenger hoping Europa League will bring fans back onside

Gunners may need patience against CSKA Moscow

Some Arsenal fans have run out of patience with their manager
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Europa League quarter-final, first leg
BT Sport 2, 8.05pm Thursday

The Emirates Stadium was sparsely populated for Sunday's 3-0 Premier League win over Stoke but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is confident that the lure of the Europa League will bring the crowds back.

The Gunners eased through a tough last-16 tie against Milan 5-1 on aggregate, having gone into the first leg on a run of four straight defeats, and they are long odds-on for a home victory against CSKA Moscow in the quarter-finals.

Arsenal fans endured a miserable first half against Stoke, with the hosts struggling to land a blow against the dogged Potters, and more patience may be required against CSKA.

The Gunners' home performances in the Europa League have been a mixed bag. They were 1-0 down at half-time before recovering to win 3-1 the night Cologne supporters stormed London, then drew 0-0 with Red Star Belgrade and thrashed Bate Borisov 6-0.

The second leg of their last-32 tie against Swedish minnows Ostersunds produced a shock 2-1 defeat before a 3-1 second-leg win sealed their progress against Milan.

Wenger picked mix-and-match teams for the group stage but Arsenal's patchy league form means the Europa League has been the priority for some time now.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored the first two of Arsenal's three late goals against Stoke, is ineligible so Wenger will be hoping that Alexandre Lacazette is fit enough to start for the first time in two months.

CSKA dropped out of the Champions League despite winning three of their six group games and they were competitive away from home, beating Basel and Benfica 2-1 and taking the lead in a 2-1 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

They scraped past a limited Red Star side in the last 32, winning 1-0 on aggregate after a goalless first leg, and ended Lyon's dream of lifting the trophy in their own stadium with a 3-2 second-leg victory in France.

Five clean sheets in seven games in 2018 suggest Viktor Goncharenko's side have the ability to frustrate Arsenal early on.

However, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan (who seems to come alive on Europa League nights) and Mesut Ozil teeing up Lacazette, the Gunners should have enough quality to carve out a first-leg advantage against an elderly CSKA defence.   

Recommendation
Draw-Arsenal double result
1pt 16-5 Betway, Hills

Premier League standings

Match odds

Team news
Arsenal
Striker Alexandre Lacazette could make his first start since January 30 with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ineligible. If Lacazette is fit enough only for the bench then Danny Welbeck will lead the line.

CSKA Moscow
Defender Kirill Nababkin is suspended and Viktor Vasin, Astemir Gordyushenko and Mario Fernandes are injured.

Key stat
Just two of CSKA's 18 goals in European competitions this season have come before the 45th minute.


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Five clean sheets in seven games in 2018 suggest Viktor Goncharenko's side have the ability to frustrate Arsenal early on
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