Should Arsenal prioritise the Europa League?

Arsenal are struggling once again

Arsenal are yet again, struggling for form during the Christmas period of the Premier League season.

The Gunners are currently fifth in the league table.

Wenger’s men currently have just 33 points and are closer to the relegation zone (15 points) than they are to Premier League leaders, Manchester City (52 points)

Arsenal’s title challenge is already over and it isn’t even Christmas

Arsenal finished last season in 5th place behind Liverpool, Manchester City, the Champions Chelsea and arch-rivals Tottenham.

Manchester United, despite finishing below Arsenal in the league, secured a Champions League position by winning the Europa League.

This season, Arsenal are the only English club left in the Europa League after Everton crashed out in the group stage.

Many people believe that winning the Europa League is Arsenal’s best chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League rather than finishing in the top four.

Can Arsenal finish in the Top 4?

Manchester City look to have won the league already, sitting 11 points clear at the top of the table, a lead so big, that only one team in Premier League history has ever not won the title after sitting so far ahead (Newcastle in 1995/96).

Manchester United will almost definitely finish in the top 4 for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013.

The Red Devils are currently second in the league, eight points ahead of Arsenal.

Manchester United celebrate at Arsenal

Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring against Arsenal in Man United’s 3-1 win at the Emirates in early December

Chelsea & Liverpool for the final two spots?

Last season’s Champions, Chelsea, have already lost four matches, just one less than in the entirety of their previous campaign.

However, Conte’s Blues are almost certainties for the Top four and are unlikely to finish below Arsenal for only the third time since Arsenal’s Invincible side of 2004.

Liverpool have been in brilliant form this season and are looking likely to repeat last year’s “success” of finishing in the top four.

The quality quartet of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Phillipe Coutinho makes Liverpool a team to be reckoned with.

The Reds humiliated Arsenal in late August, running out 4-0 winners at Anfield.

Despite a patch of bad form, it is just too early to rule out Tottenham from finishing in a Champions League position for the third season in a row.

Many believed that Spurs would struggle at Wembley this season, but it has in fact been their away form, that has let them down thus far.

Arsenal lost 4-0 at Liverpool and haven’t had much success on the road this season

On the road, Arsenal are woeful

Arsenal’s away form has been “abysmal”.

The Gunners have won just two matches on the road all season and lost four of their nine away fixtures.

It is extremely unlikely that a team with such a shocking record will be able to finish in a Champions League position.

Can Arsenal win the Europa League?

Arsenal won their group comfortably ahead of Red Star Belgrade, FC Koln and BATE Borisov but are yet to face one of Europe’s top teams.

Arsenal may have drawn Swedish outfit, Ostersunds, in the last 32 of the competition but European heavyweights such as Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Lyon, AC Milan and Marseille are all still in the competition and could all face Arsenal in the next round, should they progress.

Arsenal are certainly one of, if not the best team in the Europa League and can certainly win the competition.

If Arsene Wenger takes the knockout stages of the competition seriously and fields a strong lineup in Arsenal’s upcoming matches, Arsenal can without a doubt win the competition.

Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are Arsenal’s biggest competitors for the prize and are all at least as good as the Gunners.

One of those four teams will almost certainly win the 2017/18 Europa League.

The verdict

In reality, Arsenal do have the quality, strength and squad depth to compete in the Europa League whilst also challenging in the Premier League.

Most Arsenal fans would be delighted if they were to repeat Manchester United’s 2016/17 season and win both the League Cup and Europa League.

Arsenal have a much better chance of qualifying for the Champions League via the Europa League than they do by finishing in the Top 4.

Dortmund, Atletico and Napoli are all strong sides, as are many others in the Europa League but competing with the likes of Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool will surely prove to be even tougher.

It would definitely be silly for Arsenal to put all their eggs in one basket and focus solely on the Europa League as there is no guarantee that they will win it.

Arsenal are more than capable of winning the Europa League and Carabao whilst also challenging to finish in the Top 4 but the likelihood of succeeding in all three is very low.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, Wenger’s tactical errors and Arsenal’s sloppy play could cost them in both the league and the Europa League and I personally think Arsenal will finish sixth and crash out of the Europa League in the semi-finals.

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