Arsene Wenger has urged focus from his Arsenal players ahead of their opening Champions League group game at Dinamo Zagreb.
Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich loom on the horizon for Arsenal in Group F, but Wenger – who begins an 18th successive season in Europe’s premier club competition – is keen to avoid any slip-ups against Dinamo and Olympiacos before that mouthwatering October 20 showdown.
“It is important we go to Zagreb highly focused and conscious at what is at stake there,” Wenger told his club’s official website. “You can be quickly out of the Champions League and we want to start well and we know we have a battle first to qualify with Bayern Munich [in the group].
“You need to find the balance between urgency and confidence and at times that is difficult as you can quickly be too confident and lose your urgency.
“We have Olympiacos and Zagreb first and we have to finish above them and the result will come down to that. I think it is important to start well because the hunger of a team is shown as well in how well you go in every competition.”
Wenger could retain Theo Walcott in a central striking role at the stadium where the England forward netted a hat-trick for his country back in 2008.
“I think he has an eye for the goal,” he said of the player who opened the scoring in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Stoke City.
“The quality of his receptions in the box is at the top. He will become an instinctive finisher when he has a couple of goals behind him.
“He needs a few more goals to score a bit more spontaneously. He is quick and gets into good little pockets.”
Dinamo will be without Goncalo Santos due to suspension as they aim to overturn a dismal record against both English opposition and in the Champions League as a whole.
They have lost their previous six games against English opposition and have played 15 Champions League matches without success since overcoming Sturm Graz in September 1999.
However, Zoran Mamic’s side claimed the Croatian title last season without suffering defeat and are in the midst of an astonishing 41-match unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back to last November.
The latest example of this rampant form came in a 4-0 demolition of local rivals Lokomotiva on Friday night.
“We are playing so well,” said defender Leonardo Sigali, as quoted by the Daily Star.
“If we play against Arsenal like we did against Lokomotiva, who knows what can happen.
“At a full Maksimir Stadium we are confident. Arsenal need to take us seriously or they are in for a surprise.
“We are creating chances and looking dangerous.”