Arsene Wenger gave some indication as to where the Europa League sits in Arsenal’s list of priorities as seven first-team regulars sat out training on Wednesday.

The Gunners welcome Bundesliga outfit Cologne to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night as the reality of a first season without Champions League football since 1997-98 hits home.

Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka did not train with the matchday squad despite all being match fit.

Shkodran Mustafi (left) and Sead Kolasinac (right) in training on Wednesday
Shkodran Mustafi (left) and Sead Kolasinac (right) in training on Wednesday (Adam Davy/PA)

Arsenal travel to face reigning Premier League champions Chelsea on Sunday, so a much-changed side was always anticipated.

Alexis Sanchez did train and could be involved as Wenger aims to improve the Chilean’s fitness.

Jack Wilshere also took part and may make his first Arsenal appearance in 383 days following last season’s loan spell at Bournemouth.

Arsenal have not played in this competition since losing the 2000 UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray but it could be seen as a route back to the Champions League.

Manchester United won the Europa League last season to qualify for the Champions League and, with a battle for a top-four Premier League finish likely to be more competitive than ever, Wenger may eventually be tempted to look at the same path.