Arsene Wenger revealed Everton striker Romelu Lukaku was once a transfer target for Arsenal and accepted that his presence gives his team “another headache” to cope with on Saturday.
The Gunners travel to Goodison Park in the Premier League after going out of the FA Cup and Champions League to Watford and Barcelona in their last two matches.
Arsenal need a positive result with them sitting third in the table, 11 points behind shock leaders Leicester City with just one game in hand.
Wenger divulged that he had been interested in signing Lukaku – who has scored 18 Premier League goals in 2015-16 – prior to his move to Chelsea in 2011, but has not been back in for him since.
“Yes, we have known him since he was in Belgium but at the time he opted to go for Chelsea,” said Wenger.
“I agree he is developing well and year after year he is better. His finishing is better, his technical link with players is better and he is promising to have a big career because that is always a sign if year after year he gets better numbers.
“No [we did not move for him once he was at Chelsea] because he went out on loan and I did expect him to go back to Chelsea, so after that we are never on the case.”
Asked how he would cope with the threat of Lukaku, Wenger said: “Look, we just played against [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez and Neymar so now you give us another headache.
“I think our defenders will get encouragement from the defensive performance they produced against Barcelona.”
Wenger believes there were other huge positives to take from the 5-1 aggregate defeat to Barca, which was sealed with a 3-1 second-leg loss at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
He said: “We had a dynamic, mobile, fluid performance. We had 20 shots on goal, 12 shots on target in Barcelona and overall I believe our performance was positive.
“I just want us to play with the same passion and drive until the end of the season now. Everton is a tough place to go, they have big strong squad and a team with huge potential as well. We expect a strong opponent.”
Asked if Arsenal were looking at the teams behind them as well as those above, Wenger replied: “Yes, of course, but I believe first of all that the Premier League is far from over.
“Secondly, I agree that we have as well to look behind because things can change very quickly. Of course we want to move forward but I am conscious that the position we are in now is not secure.
“We know the huge importance this game has to us. We do not have to over think what we have to do, we just know the big significance the game has.
“Recently we have lost at home to Swansea and we want to make up the points. A negative result would be very bad for us, so we have to go step by step and first get back to winning habits.”
Wenger confirmed that Mathieu Flamini will miss the Everton game with a hamstring injury picked up against Barca, but does not think the problem will cause a long-term absence.
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