Is the Europa League the Best Route Into the Champions League for the Gunners?
It hasn’t been the ideal start to the season for the Gunners, and already the walls seem to be closing in on Unai Emery. His position as the manager at the Emirates is looking weaker with every passing week at present. It is believed that if the Gunners fail to beat Norwich City on Sunday, then Emery will be relieved of his duties.
The Gunners already have an eight-point gap to catch up to Chelsea in fourth place, and their recent form hasn’t been the quality that is needed to bridge that gap. Arsenal haven’t won in their last five fixtures in the Premier League, and during this run, they have fallen to defeats against Sheffield United and Leicester City.
Not just that, but the Gunners have also been held to 2-2 home draws against Crystal Palace and Southampton. The latter of those would undoubtedly have been the lowest point of their season to this point, as they were booed off the pitch despite scoring a 96th minute equaliser.
During the draw against Palace, there was a revolt against Granit Xhaka. It was another situation that Emery didn’t deal with in a positive fashion, as he refused to criticise the captain. However, it also wasn’t handled well by Xhaka himself, as he didn’t apologise for the disrespect that he showed the club.
Emery did react by taking the captaincy away from the Swiss midfielder, but the time that he took to respond didn’t get the fans back on his side. The captaincy was then handed to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which appeared to be the smartest decision possible.
However, the Gabon international’s goals have really dried up over recent weeks as he has only scored once in six outings in the Premier League. Even though he keeps being one of the fastest players in the league, with a pace that could be seen in the Kentucky Derby horse race, he has failed to hit the net.
That would be a huge concern in the league, as the Gunners rely on Aubameyang’s goals to get the positive results they need.
His tally of eight already this season is already a progressive total, but he will need to get at least 20 again if the Gunners are going to finish in the top-four.
Prioritise Europa League?
The Europa League is another route that the Gunners can take advantage of to get into the Champions League, and most bookmakers already rank them among the favourites to win that competition.
It is still a little early in the season to prioritise one competition, but if the Europa League resumes and the Gunners are off the pace in the battle for a top-four place, then they should re-evaluate the stance they are taking.
The unpredictability that comes with knockout football means that it is a dangerous option, but it could also have benefits. During Jose Mourinho’s debut season at Old Trafford, he prioritised the Europa League.
The domestic form dropped off because of this as United finished outside of the top-four, but their win in the Europa League final ensured that the Mourinho gamble paid off. But, it could have been so different.
The stakes are increased with every fixture that is played in the Europa League if you choose to prioritise it, and the best route for most clubs would be to remain competitive on both fronts. The Arsenal second-string should still have enough quality to beat most of the teams in the Europa League.
Their biggest issues are likely to come when they are pitted against better sides such as Roma, Lazio, Sevilla and any potential big guns that drop out of the Champions League.
It is likely that prioritising question won’t fall on the shoulders of Emery, but his successor could find that his tenure could hinge on a successful passage back into the Champions League.
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