The clubs who have managed to secure a place in one of UEFA’s competitions for this season start their respective campaigns this week, and for the first time in 25 years, Arsenal are not among them. There are, of course, consequences of such a situation, several negative, but also some positive ones relating to Arsenal’s current overall predicament. Much has been said about the club’s transition phase taking too long to end, and with that in mind, it’s not really surprising that they have no place in the Europa League – let alone the Champions League, and that in itself is a pretty sobering thought. The Gunners produced a second consecutive eighth-place finish in the Premier League last term, but this time there was no FA Cup triumph to bail them out.
Another season has been and gone for Arsenal Football Club and while there were a few bright sparks, it was a largely disappointing campaign for Mikel Arteta’s men. Today, we’re going to take a look at the four main competitions the Gunners were in and how they fared.
After winning three of their first four games, Arsenal only one won of their next ten and proceeded to destroy all hopes they may have had of finishing in the top four – or even top six. They may have ended the season strongly but when you finish up down in eighth, it really doesn’t matter what you’ve been able to do in a handful of games that don’t really mean much.
There can be no doubt that the second leg of the Europa League semifinal against Villarreal, played tonight (Thursday) at the Emirates, is the most important one of Mikel Arteta’s time in charge of the team so far. The whole season seems to be hanging on its result, but it’s actually more than that, for several reasons, some rather obvious, some perhaps less so.
The importance of playing in the Champions League cannot be overstated, either from the financial point of view, or in terms of club reputation. The Gunners have been trying for years, without success, and the Europa League has (too) long been their consolation battleground.
Manager Mikel Arteta says Arsenal cannot allow themselves to get distracted by recent reports of a potential takeover ahead of the second leg against Villarreal in the Europa League semifinals.
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry confirmed earlier this week that Daniel Ek, the co-founder of Spotify, has contacted the Kroenkes with the aim of presenting an offer to buy the club. The bid, believed to be in the region of £1.8 billion, is due to be sent to the current owners in a few days, and Ek is apparently confident, with the full backing of Henry, Patrick Vieira and Denis Bergkamp, that it will be taken into consideration regardless of the Kroenkes’ recent statement that the club is not for sale.
The fact that Arsenal’s season cannot be described as successful is pretty obvious, and with that in mind, the rumours about the club considering parting ways with manager Mikel Arteta, though noted, haven’t been able to gather pace so far.
However, it seems some ‘outlets’ feel it’s time they had another go. The rumour comes from Italy this time, and it involves not only Arsenal, but fellow Europa League semifinalists AS Roma. Apparently, the Gunners are supposed to have made a list of potential replacements for Arteta, and one of the names there is Roma boss Paulo Fonseca. That is according to TuttoMercatoWeb, who also claim the club hierarchy are not happy with Arteta’s work and the lack of progress under his command. They also say that at this point, only lifting the Europa League trophy could save Arteta his job.
The amusing part about getting into Europe is that the primary focus, more often than not, then switches towards trying to achieve qualification the very next season. Football should be all about living in the moment and for large periods of this campaign, many Arsenal supporters have already started talking about the future under Mikel Arteta.
The next step
While we also think the future is going to be bright if Arteta is able to implement his style at the Emirates, that doesn’t really matter at this moment in time. What does matter is the season we’re currently in the midst of and the progress Arsenal are making on all fronts.
Arsenal are facing a tough six days ahead of them, as they are scheduled to appear in three games within a short period of time: on Thursday, 19 September, the lads will be travelling to Germany, where they will be playing a Europa League match against Eintracht Frankfurt; on Sunday, 22 September, they have a Premier League head-to-head with Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium; finally, on Tuesday, 24 September, the Gunners will be playing against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup. Arsenal’s last match of the month is due to take place on 30 September against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The UEFA Europa League may not be seen as a great competition by Arsenal fans, and understandably so after their loss in the final which prevented them from playing Champions League football next season. However, not only does it serve as a valid entry back into Europe’s biggest club competition, but it also gives other teams a chance to live out their dream of playing European football.
Here they come
Case in point: Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Midlands-based club have long since been viewed as a sleeping giant within English football, but in the last twelve months, they have been able to burst through the glass ceiling after finishing 7th in the top flight, qualifying for the Europa League and reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.
We can all moan and groan about the fact that Arsenal are going to be playing in the Europa League again next season, but let’s face it, there’s nothing that we can do to change that. What’s done is done and instead of licking our wounds, it’s time to start preparing for Europe’s second biggest club competition. After all, there’s no point in pretending like we all didn’t big it up last season.
The UEFA Europa League is one of those competitions that never seems to get the respect it deserves, and to be perfectly honest, we can’t see that changing anytime soon. The majority of teams will always strive to enter the Champions League, and even for those who consider that goal to be unrealistic, they’d still prefer to think of that as opposed to considering the possibility of playing on Thursday nights.
Alas, the Europa League is a competition that consistently features some of Europe’s most underrated sides, and it almost always serves up some really entertaining encounters. People just, for some reason, have this negative perception of it, and the sooner fans come to understand the benefits of the competition, the better.