Our European journey continues tonight as we look to progress to the quarter final of the Europa League.
There is a school of thinking that it “will not be a bad thing if Arsenal go out tonight”. That is the wrong mentality to have.
The defeat against Manchester City in the FA Cup was the beginning of a 4 game run without a win. We have re-grouped and are now 6 unbeaten (5 Premier League victories and the draw in Lisbon).
I always think when games are coming thick and fast, you keep the pedal to the metal and push through.
Resting too many tonight will not automatically result in a victory on Sunday against Crystal Palace. Nor will it guarantee us the league.
Feeling unbeatable can add extra to a player. Confidence rises any athlete to another level. We can not afford for any of the team to begin to doubt that they belong.
We have a strong squad filled with top players, and whilst Mikel Arteta will shuffle the pack, I expect him to maintain a 50/50 team. 50% starters, 50% 2nd string.
That should be enough to see us through tonight and maintain the momentum.
Keeping the fringe fresh
You never know when a fringe squad player might be called upon. It is therefore important to keep them fresh and sharp.
Training can only take players to a certain level. But they need games to be match sharp.
The goal conceded against Sporting from a corner was probably a result of Matt Turner and Jakub Kiwior not being match sharp. We have also recently seen Takehiro Tomiyasu struggle when he came in for Ben White.
Getting the likes of Turner, Tomiyasu, Kiwior, Tierney and Vieira game time will mean that if they are needed against Palace or beyond, they will be closer to being match ready.
The quarter finals of the Europa League are on the 13 and 20 of April. If we make it through tonight, then many of our fringe players will be playing 4 games in 4 weeks. That will keep them fresh and ready for the Premier League if called upon.
Are we a top team?
Manchester City (at the time of writing) are chasing a historic treble. Man U chasing a Btec treble.
Napolo are leading Serie A and still in the Champions League. Real Madrid looking to add the Champions League and Copa del Rey to a couple of Super Cups.
Barcelona are chasing a domestic league and cup double, whilst Bayern Munich are on for a treble.
Top teams fight on mutiple fronts. And if we consider ourselves a top team, then we should be looking to win both the Premier League and Europa League.
Back up plan
We have been brilliant this season in the Premier League, but it will mean nothing if we end the season without a trophy.
We lost in the League Cup 3rd round to Brighton at home. That was very disappointing, especially after we took the league.
Had we won, our path to the final would have been Charlton, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and Newcastle.
In the FA Cup, we rested a lot of players against Man City. Pep put out his strongest XI and they scrapped to a 1-0 win. City have since played Bristol City and next face Burnley.
Man U, Brighton and Fulham are the only other remaining Premier League sides left in the FA Cup.
Let me paint a scenario: we finish 2nd and Man U win the Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup. I know whose season I would have preferred…
We have thrown away two good opportunities to win a trophy. We should not let a chance to win a European cup slip easily through our hands.
Due to getting nil point last season, we have dropped to 23rd in UEFA’s Coefficient Ranking.
That means we will likely be in Pot 3 in next seasons Champions League – drawn against the Champions League winners, Europa League winners and Champions of Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Holland.
Pot 2 will then be filled with the next top 8 sides in Europe.
That would potentially be Real Madrid, Roma, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and Benfica.
If we win the Europa League, we go straight into Pot 1, meaning that we miss the champions from around Europe.
A semi-final defeat could be enough to see us jump into pot 2.
If we want to avoid having 2 big guns in the Group Stages of next seasons Champions League, we need to progress in Europe.
Starved of European success
European trophies is the only stain in our history.
A club the size of Arsenal, with the domestic success we have had, should have won more than the now defunct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and European Cup Winners Cup.
In my lifetime, I have seen us runners-up in the Champions League, the UEFA Cup/Europa League (twice) the ECWC and the European Super Cup. I want to be in Budapest in May.
Thank you for the education on the UEFA Coefficient ranking. In this perspective, the Europa League trophy becomes suddenly very important. What’s the use qualifying for CL and dropping out of the group stage having played the best of Europe?
Mikel’s 50:50 rotation should do the trick. Unlike most, I think our squad players are not too far in quality from the first 11. They just lack game time.
Good luck to us tonight COYG.
UEFA Coefficient doesn’t matter. We’re not going to win the CL in any case. Getting into it and getting the money is the important thing for the next 2 years.
And re being a top team, it is the money that enables you to build a squad capable of competing at the top level. At the moment we have a squad capable of competing for one trophy. Getting access to the CL with the additional cash it provides, facilitates building a squad able to compete in another competition. We are not a gangster sponsored club nor are we owned by an oil state. These shortcuts are not available to us. Hence, slowly slowly us the only route. And one I rather prefer.