Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has claimed that the UEFA Europa League has become very difficult to win unlike in previous editions.
Wenger stated this while previewing Arsenal’s second-leg round of 16 home tie against AC Milan in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
In the first-leg played at the San Siro last Thursday, Arsenal won 2-0.
With the Gunners likely to miss out on a top four place in the Premier League (they are sixth in the table), their only chance of returning to the UEFA Champions League is by winning this season’s Europa League.
“I want to be in the Champions League,” Wenger said.
“The Europa League is very strong this year. Look at Milan, Dortmund and Atleti (Atletico Madrid). Many good teams. This competition is at a higher level than ever.
“Anything can run against you and we just have to produce a performance that is expected from us. The competition is very tight.”
Wenger revealed that some of his players who have been injured should be available for the game against Milan.
He however disclosed that Alexandre Lacazette will not be ready until after the international break.
Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin did not feature against Milan and Watford while Laurent Koscielny missed only the game against the Hornets at the weekend due to a slight knock.
“Some players had tests this morning and everyone is available except Lacazette. He is back in training soon,” Wenger said.
“He is on track. He had a full session outside today. He should be available after the break.”
On Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s impressive performance for Arsenal lately, Wenger said: “He has been well accepted. Players of his calibre it helps he has been abroad before so he knows how to behave.
“I am never surprised when players do well. Having success in the past doesn’t mean anything for us.”
And on Arsenal recovering from their poor run of form which saw them lose four straight games in all competitions, Wenger explained: “Consistency is a sign of quality. Sometimes when you have a negative spell it is hard to get out, that‘s why it was important to get out of it.”