After six Premier League games finished and dusted, we kick off our 37th European campaign on Thursday when we travel to Switzerland to face FC Zurich in our opening match of the Europa League group stage.
After missing out on continental action last season, we are back for a fifth attempt to lift the Europa League which will see us face Zurich, PSV Eindhoven and Bodo/Glimt in six games over eight weeks.
This will be our first trip to the country since a 4-1 win at Basel in the Champions League in December 2016, but we won’t be going to Zurich, with the match taking place 54 miles away at the Kybunpark in St. conflict scene.
After recovering from surprise relegation in 2017, Zurich turned the tide and won their 13th Swiss title last season by a margin of 14 points, which was their first success in 13 seasons.
They have also won 10 domestic cups and reached the European Cup semi-finals twice in 1964 and 1977. They made the Champions League group stage in 2009/10, and that will be a fifth Europa League group stage appearance since then, with their last coming in 2018/19 when they reached the knockout stages before being beaten by Napoli.
Their season so far
Despite last season’s success, manager Andre Breitenreiter left for Hoffenheim this summer and was replaced by Franco Foda. He is yet to see his side win a league game in seven attempts, which puts them ninth in the 10-team Swiss Super League which started in July.
As defending champions, Zurich first entered the Champions League qualifiers but were beaten in the second round by Qarabag on penalties. They then dispatched Linfield and Hearts to book their place in the Europa League group stage, meaning we will be the third consecutive team they will face in European competition.
Their last match was on Saturday, which saw them lose at home to Lugano via a last-minute goal, which was their third successive home defeat, as they saw 18-year-old striker Wilfried Gnonto join Leeds United the day of the deadline.
Perhaps the most notable name in the Zurich squad is veteran midfielder Blerim Dzemaili, who was capped 69 times by Switzerland between 2006 and 2018 and played in two World Cups. He’s back at the club where it all started, having first left in 2007 for a brief stint with Bolton Wanderers, before representing Parma, Napoli and Galatasaray, among others.
Defender Becir Omeragic is a current Swiss teammate of Granit Xhaka, while Ole Selnaes played alongside Martin Odegaard for Norway and signed in the summer, alongside former Rangers centre-back Nikola Katic.
Another player who has played in Scotland is Kosovo international striker Donis Avdijajl who had a short stint at Hearts, while goalkeeper and captain Yanick Brecher has been at the club for a decade. Benin international Tosin Aiyegun is the club’s top scorer this season with five goals in all competitions.
What the managers say
Foda about us: “We are looking forward to this extraordinary game in front of a sold-out crowd against Arsenal tomorrow night. It will be important that we are compact defensively, but then, once we have the ball, we will play calmly and decisively.
“A lot is possible in a game and we do everything we can to get the best possible result. Arsenal are extremely good at positional play and often have a lot of possession. We have to keep the gaps in width and depth small because the Gunners are also good at moving between the lines.”
Arteta on Zurich: “The biggest danger is that after the season they had last year, they don’t have the results they hoped for. You can see how ready they are to win football games. C It’s a different competition, a different context and I expect a team that will be very ready tomorrow.” – read all about Mikel’s pre-match press conference
Emile Smith Rowe has not traveled with the squad after battling injury for the past two weeks – read more
We will also miss Mohamed Elneny (hamstring) and Thomas Partey (thigh), as well as Reiss Nelson who suffered a muscle injury.
Ukraine Under-21 international striker Bohdan Vyunnyk and Antonio Marchesano are doubts for the hosts, while young left-back Ilan Sauter is definitely out.
Facts and statistics
We have won our six matches so far against Swiss opponents, although this is the first time we face Zurich.
Having lost just one of their first 11 home games in the Europa League, Zurich have since lost their last two home games in the competition.
We have won 75% of our 24 Europa League group stage matches. Of the 94 teams to have participated in the group stages of this competition at least three previous times, only Zenit has a better victory rate (79%).
Zurich have won three of their 10 matches against English opponents in Europe (L7), although all three victories have come in home matches, most recently beating Aston Villa 2-0 in the Intertoto Cup in July 2002.
Eddie Nketiah has scored in the last two games he has started in the Europa League; he could become the fifth Englishman to score in three consecutive starts in the competition, after Bobby Zamora, Jermain Defoe, Harry Kane and James Tavernier.
Swedish referee Mohammed Al-Hakim is the man in the middle of this game. He has been a professional match official since 2008, overseeing top-level matches for a decade and has been on the FIFA list since 2015. He also works part-time. as an officer in the Swedish Armed Forces.
- Referee: Mohammed Al-Hakim
- Assistant Referee 1: Fredrik Klyver
- Assistant Referee 2: Robin Wilde
- Fourth Official: Bojan Pandzic
- VAR: Rob Dieperink
- VAR Assistant: Edwin van der Graaf
Last time in Switzerland
Our last competitive game in the country was in the 2016/17 Champions League campaign, where we faced FC Basel and won 4-1.
Lucas Perez netted a hat-trick before Alex Iwobi added a fourth in the 53rd minute to ensure we finished top of the group ahead of Paris St Germain, on a night that saw Granit Xhaka play against his brother Taulant.
The other two survivors of this team were Rob Holding, who played the entire game, and Elneny who played for the last 20 minutes.
Nicole Holliday and Adrian Clarke will host our pre-match show, which will look back on past Europa League campaigns.
Max Jones and Jeremie Aliadiere are our commentary team in St. Gallen, and we’ll be checking in with them to see what the Gooners atmosphere is like in Switzerland.
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Preview: FC Zurich vs Arsenal