Arsenal v Atletico Madrid: Early team news as Danny Welbeck says winning Europa League would be ‘icing on the cake’
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If a week is a long time in politics it is an age in football.
The Islington Gazette has been covering in-depth the news Arsene Wenger is to leave the club since it broke, including attending Ivan Gazidis remarkable press conference on Friday evening.
We were at the Emirates on Sunday to cover the 4-1 victory over West Ham in an atmosphere that was strangely subdued, as much a nod to the rancour Wenger as manager has prompted from the divided fan base.
We also reported from the club’s open training session from London Colney on Wednesday morning and Wenger’s press session with Danny Welbeck alongside him.
To say the news has been met with mixed emotions is an understatement. This correspondent was invited on BBC 5 Live to discuss the long-serving Frenchman while featuring in an in-depth Sky Sports feature on their website.
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The overriding feeling was one of joy mixed with regret. Joy because Wenger had simply gone on too long and had long passed his sell-by date – certainly compared to the glorious first ten years of his tenure when everything he touched turned to gold.
Regret because it was sad to see such a globally respected figure effectively being given his cards – as our exclusive revealed.
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There was also shock at the apparent bitterness and frustration he hinted at during his post-match press conference after West Ham – where he appeared to want to say a lot more than he did, while mentioning that a section of the fans had ‘harmed’ the club’s reputation.
However, the most pressing matter at the moment is the looming clash with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
The Europa League semi-final first leg clash against Atleti will see Mesut Ozil return after he trained with the squad on Wednesday morning. As did Petr Cech and Jack Wilshere, who missed the West Ham game.
A club source told the Islington Gazette Henrikh Mkitaryan is ‘close’ to playing again but is not expected to be included in the squad for the first leg.
Wenger said afterward training: “One of Atletico’s strengths is that they have no weaknesses. I am focused on the game. Atletico are a very strong team. They are strong offensively and defensively.
“[But his Arsenal team] has quality. This group of players is special. I want to [win the Europa League] for them. It will be my biggest satisfaction.”
Former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck praised Wenger saying: “I’ve worked with two giants of the game [in Sir Alex Ferguson and Wenger].
“’m just fortunate to have played under both.
“I wanted to win the game before Wenger was leaving and I want to win it now. It would be the icing on the cake [to win the Europa League].”