Arsenal begin their third successive Europa League campaign with a tricky trip to last season’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday night.
The Gunners were beaten finalists last year, slipping to a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea, and will be hoping to go one step better this campaign.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the Bundesliga side who will most likely pose the biggest threat to Arsenal’s progression from Group F.
Going, going, gone
Frankfurt shocked plenty of onlookers last year as they charged to the last four of the Europa League, only to crash out on penalties to eventual winners Chelsea.
Adi Hutter’s side finished seventh in the Bundesliga but were the entertainers in continental football, their talented front three amassing 56 of the 90 goals Frankfurt scored in all competitions.
But that trio have all moved on during the summer, 27-goal top scorer Luka Jovic landing a transfer to Real Madrid, 19-goal Sebastien Haller moving to the Premier League with West Ham and Ante Rebic departing for AC Milan, all for a reported total of over 100million euros.
Replacing such firepower will prove a huge challenge this year and, with Bas Dost joining from Sporting and Andre Silva signing on a season-long loan from Milan, the front line looks as though it will not boast as many goals this time around.
Head coach Hutter was appointed last summer after Niko Kovac left for Bayern Munich.
The Austrian joined having just delivered the Swiss title to Young Boys, although a rocky start at the Commerzbank Arena followed.
Hutter would eventually turn things around and two lengthy unbeaten runs over the course of the campaign saw Eintracht achieve their highest league finish since 2013 and reach the last four of a major European trophy for the first time in 39 years.
Premier League links
A few names in the Frankfurt squad will be familiar to followers of the Premier League.
Full-back Erik Durm joined from Huddersfield this summer, while combative midfielder Gelson Fernandes had a spell at Manchester City a decade ago before a later loan stint with Leicester.
Jonathan De Guzman won the EFL Cup during a two-year stay at Swansea and joined an elite list of players to have scored in the top flights in England, Spain, Italy and Germany when he hit his first goal for Frankfurt last September.
🎙️ #Hütter:"The anticipation is huge. We're up against last year's finalists, who we would've liked to have played against. We're at home and there'll be a great atmosphere. Of course there's a bit of tension – and so there should be."––––––#SGEuropa#SGEARSpic.twitter.com/FPRzKBLh2l— Eintracht Frankfurt (@eintracht_eng) September 18, 2019
While Arsenal have played five Premier League games heading into this opening Europa League fixture, Frankfurt have had more than double that number of competitive matches with 11.
Hutter had to guide the club through the Europa League qualifiers, seeing off Estonian side Flora, Vaduz of Lichtenstein and Ligue 1 outfit Strasbourg to reach the group stage.
Add to that a DFB-Pokal first-round win at third-tier Waldhof Mannheim and four Bundesliga games – two wins and two losses – and Frankfurt should be more than ready for Unai Emery’s visitors.
For a club who sold a number of their leading lights during the summer, it is difficult to know who will emerge in their place over the coming months.
But centre-back Martin Hinteregger is an important cog in Hutter’s side. Having initially joined on loan during last season, the deal was made permanent for a reported 12million euros in June.
An Austria international, the 27-year-old played under Hutter at Red Bull Salzburg as the pair won the league title, and he will be key to keeping Arsenal’s forwards quiet on Thursday night.
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