Is Europa League Victory Possible for Arsenal?
With domestic hopes plunging lower than ever before, it seems that Arsenal are once again relying on a successful cup run to salvage some form of a positive from an undeniably substandard season.
We currently sit tenth in the table, eight points off the top six and with a number of superior teams between us and those prized European spots. With just 11 games to play, including tough fixtures against the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Everton, it is looking far from likely that we’ll be able to rescue a disastrous Premier League campaign. Therefore, it is clear that there is a lot riding on our success in the Europa League.
We simply have to win. That, unfortunately, is far easier said than done. Whilst winning the Europa League is ideal, it will not come at any ease. It is a knockout competition, and therefore comes with obvious and regular risk of elimination.
Only one team can win of the sixteen remaining, and Mikel Arteta and his staff have to do everything they can to make sure Arsenal are in a position to win the trophy in May. Let’s discuss: can we do it? Is Europa League victory possible for Arsenal?
Of the teams remaining in the round of 16, it is fair to say that Arsenal are one of the best still standing. However, there are other strong sides we could face, should we overcome Olympiacos in our impending two-legged encounter.
London rivals Tottenham and Italian side Roma seem to be two of the main competitors, as well as Manchester United and AC Milan (one of whom will be eliminated when they play each other in the coming weeks).
It’s clear to see we will have some fierce competition, but that does not leave us without hope.
As far as I see it, the round of 32 draw went well for Arsenal. Whilst we do face the side who knocked us out last season, Olympiacos are a team that we should beat. I have no doubt that if we take our chances, we will progress into the last eight, much like we could have last time round against the Greek side.
Furthermore, the other draws were far from awful from an Arsenal perspective. Lots of the recognisably weaker sides are playing against each other, meaning the chance of an easy draw later on is greater. United facing Milan is also very preferable, as it ensures at least one of our main competitors will drop out before we can face them.
It is true to say that luck also has a hand in knock out competitions. If we can continue to get favourable draws and avoid the competition's stronger candidates for as long as possible, our route to the final could be, with all due respect to the opposition we may face, rather preferable.
On paper, I would say we are the third strongest team in the competition, behind Manchester United and Tottenham. However, we are a particularly good cup side. If we can get the players firing for 90 minutes similarly to how they did in the latter stages of the FA Cup, who’s to say what team we cannot beat on our day?
We have already proven we can outdo Ole’s United, and what better opportunity for the players to turn up on than a knockout game against our fierce North London rivals Spurs?
By no means am I suggesting that we will win the Europa League. In every season, and even more so with the footballing climate right now, it is impossible to pick one side that are clear front runners for the trophy. Nonetheless, I do think there is a clear opportunity for Arsenal to rescue the season in the UEL. If the players are 100% up for it and we take the chances we create, there is a strong case to be made for us winning UEFA's second string tournament.
We must win do everything we can to win the Europa League. Another season without Champions League, and even without Europa League, would not only harm us financially, but would greatly limit the calibre of players that will be interested in joining Mikel Arteta’s project.
In short, yes. Yes, I do believe we can win the Europa League. We have to take it a round at a time, be clinical when chances present themselves and hope for a favourable draw. Regardless of who we face, we must focus on ourselves and our own game. We cannot afford to lose.