Mikel Arteta says the Europa League is “all or nothing” for Arsenal ahead of his side’s quarter-final first leg with Slavia Prague.
With the Gunners 10 points off a top-four spot, winning the Europa League is their most realistic chance of playing in next season’s Champions League.
“We want to be in the semi-finals and we know how important the game is for us,” added Arteta.
Full-back Kieran Tierney is facing up to six weeks out with a knee injury.
Is Tierney’s season over?
At his pre-match conference on Wednesday, Arteta was unable to assure Arsenal supporters that Scotland defender Tierney will play for the club again this season.
The former Celtic player has started 23 league games in 2020-21 but suffered the injury during the 3-0 defeat to Liverpool last weekend.
“We’re going to have to go day by day,” said Arteta on Wednesday.
Martin Odegaard is a doubt for Thursday’s game with an ankle issue while David Luiz (knee) is out, but Bukayo Saka (hamstring) and Emile Smith Rowe (thigh) return to the squad.
Granit Xhaka is also available after illness.
Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela will not be at the Emirates.
Kudela has been handed a provisional one-match ban after being accused of racially abusing Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara last month.
‘It’s time to talk on the pitch’
Arteta admitted he was “in shock” after Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League loss to Liverpool.
The contest was so one-sided, debate turned quickly to whether Arsenal have improved under Arteta.
The Spaniard’s win percentage in the league from his first 50 games in charge is only 42 per cent.
Asked on Wednesday about his side’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League via the Premier League, Arteta said: “Until it’s mathematically impossible, you have to fight.
“There is no other way to do it. We have to be realistic with where we are in the league and it’s extremely difficult.
“But it’s mathematically possible so we have to stick to that.”
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville tore into Arsenal during Monday Night Football claiming they had players who “looked like a little mafia” and there “was a disconnect with them and the manager”.
“I think we have to respect every opinion,” added Arteta.
“When there is criticism coming after the way we played against Liverpool, we have to take it on the chin because it’s fully deserved for the way that we played.
“It’s time to talk on the pitch and show what we can do.”
- The only previous matches between Arsenal and Slavia Prague in European competition were in the group stages of the 2007-08 Champions League – Arsenal won 7-0 at home before drawing 0-0 away.
- In all European competition Arsenal are unbeaten against Czech opposition (W7 D1 L0), keeping seven clean sheets in eight matches.
- Slavia Prague will become the first team to face three British opponents (Leicester, Rangers and Arsenal) in the knockout rounds of a European competition since AC Milan in the 2006-07 Champions League (Celtic, Man Utd and Liverpool).
- This is Arsenal’s 16th quarter-final tie in major European competition, progressing from nine of the previous 15.
- Fifteen different players have scored for Arsenal in the Europa League this season (own goals excluded).