Mikel Arteta wants Arsenal to end nearly three decades of continental disappointment by winning this season’s Europa League, which they begin in Switzerland against FC Zürich.
Arsenal’s only two European trophies to date are the 1969-70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the 1993-94 Cup Winners’ Cup. While a return to Thursday night football could be viewed as a distraction given Arteta’s team top the nascent Premier League table, he is hungry to break the hex over the coming eight months.
“That’s a long time,” he said of the wait for more European success. “We would like to be the first one to break that negative record but you have to start somewhere and it starts tomorrow by playing well and earning the right to win the match.”
Zürich are the Swiss champions, winning the title last season for the first time in 13 years, but lost in the Champions League qualifiers to Qarabag at the first hurdle and are winless in their first seven domestic games this term. They will have to host this tie in St Gallen, 40 miles from their home, because it clashes with a Diamond League athletics meeting at their stadium.
Arteta is short of personnel and has brought most of his available first-teamers, although Emile Smith Rowe was deemed unable to travel after a recurrence of the groin problem that has dogged the early weeks of his season. Fábio Vieira, the Portuguese playmaker, is expected to make his first start and Matt Turner should make his debut in goal. Bukayo Saka is likely to be among those rested. “We want to start the competition in the right way and maintain our momentum.”
There was evident distaste from Arteta at comments made by one of Turner’s predecessors, Bernd Leno, who left Arsenal to join Fulham last month. Leno told German media this week that “politics” rather than performances forced him out and that his omission from the team “wasn’t about performance or quality”.
Arteta responded: “I’m really surprised and I don’t know if he’s talking about the politics when he was starting every match or the politics when he wasn’t playing. Really surprised about it.”