Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, Reuters
AFP - Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has refused to consider the prospect of missing out on European football next season and called on his players to "create magical moments" in Thursday's Europa League quarter-final second leg against Slavia Prague.
Arsenal are languishing in ninth in the Premier League standings, seven points behind sixth-placed Liverpool, and face a tough task to qualify for Europe through their league position.
Another route to Europe is by winning the Europa League, but the London club, who been involved in continental competition every year since 1996-97, have their work cut out after being held 1-1 by Slavia in the first leg at home.
When asked whether he had entertained the thought of missing out on European competition, Arteta told a news conference: "No. Because I don't want to put it in my mind or transmit it to any of the players or anybody at the club."
Arteta said Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe would be available for the trip to Prague but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard face late fitness tests.
"In big games, big players have to step in and create the magic moments," he added. "So let's hope that we can have them.
"It doesn't matter who it is but someone has to create when the team needs those moments. We have moments in the season where it has been the senior players and then other moments where it has been the young players. It doesn't really matter."
Arteta, who has come under increasing pressure due to the club's poor domestic form, said his side needed to start delivering positive results on the pitch to silence critics.
"Results are the only important thing... to have the perception that we are moving in the right direction," he said.