Arsene Wenger promised Russian fans that they would meet again at the 2018 World Cup this summer. The Arsenal manager was speaking after his side dumped CSKA Moscow out of the Europa League.
The Gunners shot down a spirited come back from CSKA, who were battling to overcome a 4-1 first-leg scoreline. The home side was left needing to replicate Roma’s earlier heroics against Barcelona when they overturned the same first-leg scoreline.
CSKA started well, going two-nil up through Fedor Chalov and Kirill Nababkin before Danny Welbeck and a late Aaron Ramsey strike gave Arsenal a 2-2 draw on the night 6-3 aggregate win overall.
In the post-match press conference, the Frenchman was in high spirits after securing a place in the semi-final draw where they could meet either Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg or Marseille. Wenger is bidding to reach the final in Lyon and win his first European trophy with Arsenal.
That mood was heightened when he was presented with a traditional Russian hat as part of the ‘Gentlefan’ action, which promotes warm relationships between Russian and English fans ahead of the World Cup this summer.
At the final whistle, Wenger hugged his CSKA counterpart, Viktor Goncharenko, and offered words of condolence, which he then revealed to media.
“I congratulated him because I felt in the two matches they played well, overall, especially tonight,” the 68-year-old said.
“They made my heart beat much quicker than I expected to be and I wished him good luck for the rest of the season.”
Aleksandr Golovin, who scored CSKA's only goal in London in the first-leg, has long been on Arsenal’s radar. Wenger remained characteristically tight-lipped when asked about the Russian man’s performance.
"I would say Golovin is a very interesting player. He had an outstanding game tonight again... But at the moment we are not in transfer mode. I would say that I couldn’t see one bad player in CSKA Moscow tonight," Wenger said.
Before leaving the press conference, three-time Premier League winner Wenger told fans “Goodbye, I will be back in World Cup!” much to the delight of the gathered press. The 2018 Russia World Cup will kick off on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in the very same city as Wenger led Arsenal to victory on Thursday night.