Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal can still salvage their calamitous Champions League campaign as they prepare for Tuesday’s do-or-die showdown with Dinamo Zagreb.
Wenger’s side are on brink of a stunning failure to make the knockout stages for the first time in 16 years after three defeats from their four Group F fixtures.
The Gunners must beat Croatian side Dinamo at the Emirates Stadium to keep their hopes alive, but even that won’t be enough to avoid elimination if second-placed Olympiakos, who sit six points ahead of Arsenal, draw or win at Bayern Munich.
Yet if results go Arsenal’s way in midweek, they will travel to Olympiakos for their final group match on December 9 knowing a win could send them through depending on the margin of victory.
And Wenger remains convinced Arsenal can find a way to stage one of the great European escape acts.
“We will give absolutely everything to stay in the Champions League,” Wenger said.
“I think we still have a strong chance but it will be very tight now.
“Even if we had beaten Bayern, we would be in a position where we have to beat Olympiakos, if we beat Zagreb at home. Unless Olympiakos make a result at Bayern, which is not impossible as well.”
While Wenger is optimistic about Arsenal’s chances, he acknowledges the north Londoners have only themselves to blame for their precarious predicament.
While a heavy defeat at Bayern in their last European outing could be excused given the quality of the opposition, there was no explaining away lacklustre losses against Dinamo and Olympiakos.
“It is a reality that in two games, against Bayern, we took three points (but) we have created our own problems before that,” Wenger said.
– Major obstacle –
Adding to Arsenal’s desperation to qualify is the potential that they may otherwise finish third and have to compete in the Europa League.
Playing in Europe’s second tier competition, with its hectic schedule and Thursday night matches, could be a major obstacle to Wenger’s desire to challenge for the Premier League title.
But for now he is just focused on giving Arsenal the best possible chance to advance.
“If you ask my deep gut feeling, I want to stay in the Champions League,” Wenger said.
“Let’s just try to win our last two games.”
Arsenal, without a win in their last three games in all competitions, endured the worst possible warm-up for Tuesday’s clash as they crashed to a surprise 2-1 Premier League defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Having blown the lead given to them by Olivier Giroud, Wenger’s team still had a chance to rescue a point when they won a second half penalty, only for Santi Cazorla to blaze over.
As if suffering the damaging result wasn’t bad enough, Wenger, already without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck, left the Hawthorns with two new names added to his growing injury list.
Francis Coquelin sustained a knee problem and Mikel Arteta suffered a recurrence of a calf injury, with both midfielders doubtful to recover in time for the Dinamo match.
With those injuries in mind, Wenger may be forced to rush Wales midfielder Ramsey back into the team after his hamstring problem.
Dinamo will be without Macedonia midfielder Arijan Ademi after he was given a four-year ban by UEFA after failing a drugs test.
Ademi, who insists he is innocent, tested positive for a banned substance following Zagreb’s 2-1 win over Arsenal in September.
Photo Credits : AFP