Robert Pires insists the Europa League is important for Arsenal

Former Arsenal winger Robert Pires believes winning the Europa League should be a priority for the Gunners.

Arsenal will book their place in the last-16 of the competition on Thursday night if they successfully defend a 3-0 first-leg lead against Swedish side Ostersund at the Emirates.

Arsene Wenger is expected to rest key players with the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, but Pires believes his former side should treat the Europa League with respect.

When asked if winning the Europa League was Arsenal’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League, Pires said: “I don’t know but this is a very good opportunity for Arsenal to win a trophy. Manchester United set a good example last season.

“If you lift the trophy you go straight to the Champions League and everybody knows that for Arsenal, this competition is very important.

“Arsenal are not doing so well in the Premier League but they have a good chance to win the Europa League.”

Arsenal will have won four trophies in the last five seasons if they overcome City this weekend but Wenger has faced continued calls from some fans to step down from his role as manager after another season without a meaningful title challenge.

However, Pires believes Wenger is doing a good job at the Emirates and has backed the Frenchman to cope with the pressure directed at him from one section of Arsenal’s support.

“Arsene Wenger is always under a lot of pressure, especially from the fans,” said Pires. “When you start the season the first objective is to win something at the end of the season.

“He has two great opportunities. On Sunday, to win the Carabao Cup, and the second – why not to win the Europa League? He will be very focussed and cope with the pressure.

“It is not a problem for him.”