Arsenal’s Europa League Campaign is Crucial

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Arsenal's Europa League
French former international Eric Abidal shows the slip of Arsenal during the draw for the round of 32 of the UEFA Europa League football tournament at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on December 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

As Arsenal’s Europa League tie with Swedish outfit Östersunds draws close, interest in the competition seems to have hit an all-time low with Gooners. Between a recently-booked place in the Carabao Cup final, a frustrating league campaign and unknown opposition, there are plenty of reasons why Europe is on the backburner.

That being said, the Europa League could be a huge competition for Arsenal this season.  Arsène Wenger and the Arsenal faithful would do well to approach it with seriousness.

Why Arsenal’s Europa League Campaign is Critical

A Return to the Top

Arsenal’s top 4 pursuit has gone off the rails. Draws against Chelsea, Liverpool, and West Brom, as well as the infuriating loss at Bournemouth, mean Arsenal are struggling to keep up with the pack.

Although the rest of the chasers have problems of their own, they all appear to be more cohesive units than the Gunners at this point in time. The goals of Harry Kane and Mo Salah win games single-handedly, and despite Chelsea’s troubles behind the scenes, they remain a solid outfit.

Consequently, Arsenal could be looking at another disappointing finish to their league campaign.

The Champions League spot up for grabs in the Europa League could be the most certain way to return to Europe’s elite competition. For a club like Arsenal, two consecutive seasons outside the top four could be devastating.

The best players want to play on the best stage, and Arsenal definitely need to up the quality of their squad for next season. Qualification for the Champions League is, therefore, essential.

Stopping the Rot

Another season in the Europa League increases the chance of departures from the club as well. Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere, Reiss Nelson and Aaron Ramsey are all approaching the end of their deals to varying degrees. Barcelona’s long-standing interest in Hector Bellerin also remains a concern.

In order to keep these players, and avoid a total rebuild, Arsenal must show ambition and prove they remain an elite club. A Europa League win and return to the Champions League would go a long way to reaffirm the Gunners’ place among the elite.

Losing Alexis for next to nothing, to a Premier League rival, was painful enough. Should the rest of Arsenal’s biggest stars follow suit, it would be a devastating blow, both in terms of finances and reputation. The Europa League represents a golden opportunity to avoid this disaster.

Arsenal’s Best Chance of Silverware

While a day out at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final is certainly exciting, the opposition could hardly be more daunting. Manchester City are one of the most dominant teams in Europe, let alone in England.

Admittedly, anything is possible in the Cup, but one also must be realistic; the chances of lifting the trophy are slim. Arsenal’s Europa League run is a better opportunity for silverware which could rescue an underwhelming season. There are plenty of teams left which Arsenal should be able to conquer over 2 legs.

Even the so-called remaining big guns have problems of their own. Atletico Madrid can’t seem to find the back of the net, while Borussia Dortmund can’t keep the ball out of theirs. A fully firing Arsenal definitely has enough quality to lift the trophy come May.

Whether they can turn up and perform consistently is another question.

Focusing on the Europa League this season, fielding strong teams in the competition and taking it seriously is crucial for Arsenal’s future success. A return to the Champions League is mandatory if the Gunners are to remain relevant in world football.

Should the fail, a fate similar to that of fallen giants A.C. Milan, Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen beckons. All once elite clubs, they now rest firmly in the second tier of football’s hierarchy. Arsenal cannot afford to join them.

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