Arsène Wenger is convinced Arsenal FC can "be one of the most important forces in Europe" but, despite his confidence, he must be desperate for a restorative result against FC Dynamo Kyiv after a difficult spell for his side.
Article top media content
Arsène Wenger may be unwavering in his conviction that Arsenal FC can "be one of the most important forces in Europe for many years" but, despite his outward confidence, the Frenchman must be desperate for a restorative result against FC Dynamo Kyiv after a difficult few days for his side.
For the fourth occasion this season, the Group G leaders go into a European contest on the back of a domestic defeat and while they have the incentive of knowing three points would secure their passage to the last 16, they will have to improve on their last two performances, which brought Premier League reverses against Aston Villa FC and Manchester City FC. Saturday's 3-0 loss at City was their heaviest for 20 months and increased the pressure on Wenger's players following now deposed captain William Gallas's much-publicised criticism of his colleagues last week.
"The ideal way to deal with the situation is to play well tomorrow and to show we have a united attitude and the ability and the strength to deal with it," said Wenger who, having excluded Gallas on Saturday, confirmed the French defender would return against Dynamo. He is hopeful Gallas – whose late equaliser earned Arsenal a point in Kiev in September – can make a "new start" now he is freed of the responsibility of the captaincy, which has passed to Cesc Fàbregas. "William is a player I rate and a man I rate as well. He can be even stronger as a player because he took the problems of the team to his heart.
"Even if we are frustrated at the moment, it is not all doom and gloom," added Wenger. "This squad has a fantastic future." Yet whatever tomorrow holds, their immediate prospects are not helped by an absentee list swollen to nine by training-ground injuries on the eve of this match to Abou Diaby (stomach) and Samir Nasri (knee). Dynamo coach Yuri Semin denied that Arsenal's troubles spelt good news for a visiting team defeated in seven of eight previous trips to England. "It will be good for Dynamo if we play our best possible match and our players play to their potential," he said. "Arsenal's problems are their own business, it's not important for us. I'm more concerned about the fact we managed to lose our last game against [FC] Porto."
That last-gasp defeat left the Ukrainian league leaders three points behind Arsenal in third position. In the event of a victory for second-placed Porto at Fenerbahçe SK, Dynamo will have to win to retain hope of a top-two finish and Semin said he was targeting four points from their final two group games. Dynamo, who had a free weekend while Arsenal were suffering at City, are missing defender Taras Mikhalik and should begin with Artem Milevskiy as a lone striker as they seek to maintain an impressive away record that has yielded four points from a possible six. They have also yet to concede, which may not be good news for an Arsenal attack frustrated by Fenerbahçe on Matchday 4 and without a goal in their last two outings.