Something happened at Arsenal last season that had not happened for over 20 years: Arsene Wenger’s men failed to finish in the top four of the Premier League and therefore missed out on qualification for the 2017-18 Champions League. It was a huge disappointment for the fans, who are used to seeing the Gunners competition in the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition. Not only did Arsene Wenger’s side fail to book a place in the Champions League, but the Gunners also finished below their bitter North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who ended up as high second after finishing third in the league during the 2015-16 campaign.
Arsenal are unlikely to win the Premier League title this season. Manchester City are running away with the crown, with city rivals Manchester United barely able to keep up with them. Just like Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, Arsenal have been left to fight for one of the three remaining Champions League spots. Just like last season, the North London outfit are going to find it hard to finish in the top four of the Premier League in 2017-18, and one should not be really surprised if they end up outside the Champions League places yet again this season.
This is why Arsenal need to take the Europa League seriously. The Europa League is not a competition that big clubs, including those in England, do not have a great view of. After all, there is not enough prize money, and there is not much prestige, either. The Champions League is the competition that all major teams want to be part of, but for them to do that, the Gunners will have to take the Europa League seriously. Wenger’s side successfully negotiated the group stage and won their group to book a place in the round of 32 of the Europa League. They have been paired with modest Swedish side FK Ostersunds, and if you bet on sports using BTC, then this is a banker for a win for the Gunners.
The Europa League is now in its knockout stages, and there will be some shock results. However, it is hard to see Arsenal lose to FK Ostersunds, especially as they are at home for the second leg. Even the Gunners’ bench is stronger and better known that the Swedish club’s starting lineup. True, Graham Potter’s side will be up for a giant-killing act, but it would one of the shocks of the 21st century if Arenal go out. One suspects that they won’t. There are some brilliant teams in the Europa League this season, and it is only going to get tougher with each passing round. Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Lyon, Villareal, Lazio, AC Milan and Marseille all will fancy their chances of going all the way to the final and winning the Europa League.
Arsenal have done well in domestic cup competitions in recent years. The North London club have won the FA Cup thrice since 2014 and have become something of a cup specialist. The Gunners need the same attitude and spirit in the Europa League, and the big players need to step up their game. Arsenal do have some wonderful players, such as Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette, who need to step up their game and show their true quality.
Of course, as the season progresses, Arsenal could find themselves in a very good position to finish in the top four of the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League that way. However, the Gunners do have the depth of squad to compete in the Europa League, and manager Wenger should field his best available players in the competition. Moreover, for an Arsenal team who have never been able to make an impact in the Champions League – except that one time when they reached the final – and fans would love if they win the Europa League. Look at what Manchester United did last season. Jose Mourinho’s side did not finish in the top six of the Premier League, but the Red Devils qualified for the Champions League by winning the Europa League. Arsenal should take inspiration from United and give the Europa League a real go this season.