There is a sense of building excitement as Arsenal prepare to become the first elite club to open their turnstiles since March

Never has a Europa League dead rubber carried this much weight. Arsenal can do more or less as they please when Rapid Vienna visit on Thursday, with qualification from Group B assured and top spot almost certain. They might, however, feel possessed to play out of their skins. In normal times this would be the toughest sell of the season but, for many of the 2,000 supporters who will be allowed inside the Emirates, its meaning is beyond measure.

“A historic moment for the club,” is how Arsenal hailed the reopening of their turnstiles, which will click back into action before those at any other top-flight club owing to the calendar’s quirks. It will come almost nine months after Arsenal beat West Ham with a goal from Alexandre Lacazette. That brought a near-capacity house down but then football fell silent; its return in front of gaping, windswept stands has felt decidedly strange but now a slice of what makes the sport beautiful is coming back, too.

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