Tag Archives: Europa League

Arsenal launch dual attack on Champions League

Arsenal are in the running for to finish Top 4.

A week ago Gary Linekar said that Arsenal “do not have the squad to compete for the top 4” ignoring the fact that we were certainly in a 3 horse race to finish in a Champions League spot. As it stands we are 5th, 1 point behind Manchester United in 4th.

The Premier League has 6 competitive teams fighting for 4 places. 6 in to 4 does not go. In the 9 seasons since the turn of the decade, none of the so-called “big 6” have finished top 4 in every season:

The Premier League is the hardest league in the world to finish top 4. No team, not even big spending Manchester City, are guaranteed it – where as in Spain, Italy and Germany you can pretty much guarantee that Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid & Bayern Munich will always make it.

This makes it a little bit harder to budget as a Premier League team.

Where as those sides in Spain, Italy and Germany know they will make the Champions League, so can offer 5-year deals knowing that they will have the income to cover it; Premier League sides have to be a bit more careful.

Not being in the Champions League cost Arsenal around £40million in 2017/18. With it not being an easy path to get back in, Arsenal need to ensure that they are budgeting not to qualify for the Champions League.

Any side that runs their budget and wage bill to qualify for the Champions League would be in financial danger if they failed to qualify. The £40million loss would force them to sell players to balance the books.

Alternatively, like Arsenal, you could keep a good cash balance so that you can supplement income from your savings if you do fail to qualify for a couple of years. In real life terms it is like keeping 6 months worth of mortgage payments in a savings account so that you do not risk losing your home if you lose your job.

Despite when Linekar said, Arsenal are competing for the top 4, but finishing there is not a guarantee.

It is this competition for top 4 that led me to blog about Points v Places.

Perhaps an easier route into the Champions League is winning the Europa League.

Tonight Arsenal play BATE Borisov – the Belorussian champions.

The two sides faced each other in the group stages of the Europa League last season. Arsenal scored 10 goals across both games. BATE finishing bottom of the group with just 1 win.

BATE have performed better in this years Europa League with 3 wins from 6 games – and losing just 3-1 and 1-0 against Chelsea.

Arsenal should comfortably get through to the Round of 16; and further progression should not be a problem.

The big names in the Europa League are; Napoli (2nd in Seria A), Inter Milan (3rd) and Lazio (7th). Sevilla (4th in La Liga), Real Betis (7th), Valencia (8th) and Villarrea (19th). You also have Bayern Leverkuson and Chelsea who are both 6th in their respective leagues.

The only sides that would really concern me are Napoli, Chelsea and Sevilla.

Winning the Europa League is a realistic target.

With Arsenal being out of both domestic competitions, we easily have the resources to rotate and keep players fresh for both competitions.

Despite what some have said, Arsenal have two good routes into the Champions League.



FC Vorskla Poltava – The calm before the storm

Today feels like the calm before the storm.

We are out in Ukraine for the Europa League game against  FC Vorskla Poltava where victory will guarantee first spot based on our better head-to-head record against Sporting Lisbon.

Having beaten Vorskla 4-2 in the home leg, Unai Emery is expected to make wholesale changes to the side with one eye on Sunday.

As key games against Tottenham on Sunday awaits. Emery’s first North London Derby. An opportunity to mark up his first 3 points against that lot up the road. A win takes us above them.

All this week I have been speaking to people about Sunday’s game, rather than tonight’s. It is easy to take the eye off the ball, but this evening just seems inconsequential. An inconvenience. An interruption. Sunday’s game is just a million times more important.

Arsenal are already without Danny Welbeck, sidelined long term with an ankle injury. Striker Alexandre Lacazette (groin) is also a doubt after missing Sunday’s win over Bournemouth. This could open the door for Eddie Nketiah for his first start of the season; as Emery is unlikely to risk Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, his only fully fit senior striker.

Centre backs Konstantinos Mavropanos and Laurent Koscielny are still battling back from their long term injuries.

Elsewhere, full-back Nacho Monreal is sidelined for the next 10 days as he battles back from a hamstring injury and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who also has a hamstring problem, is a doubt for the trip.

The likes of Tyreece John-Jules, Joe Willock, Charlie Gilmour and Jordi Osei-Tutu were among those who trained with the Arsenal first-team at London Colney before they fly out to Kiev for their tie, the location for which has been changed in light of the introduction of martial law in certain regions of Ukraine.

Petr Cech will replace Bern Leno in goal, with Carl Jenkinson likely to get a start in defence.

Rob Holding will be in defence alongside Stephan Litchsteiner. At left back we should see Ainsley Maitland-Niles get some game time.

A midfield 3 of Aaron Ramsey, Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny.

Nketiah will be joined in the front 3 by Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock. The youngster has been in fine form playing centrally for the U23 team this season, with a raft of youngsters on the bench.


Match Report: Sporting 0 – 1 Arsenal

Sporting Club of Portugal (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 1
UEFA Europa League, Group E, Matchday 3 of 6
Estádio José Alvalade Stadium
Thursday, 25th October 2018. Kick-off time: 5.55pm
(4-2-3-1) Leno; Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Xhaka; Guendouzi, Elneny; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey (C); Welbeck, Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Martinez, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Torreira, Iwobi, Özil, Lacazette.
Yellow Cards: Mkhitaryan, Holding
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
Attendance: 47,331
If we all believe in omens, then tonight is going to be a classic case. In the season that we won the Fairs Cup (1969-70), Arsenal beat Sporting Club de Portugal en route to the final, so let’s hope that tonight, history (which can be fickle) repeats itself and we shall be starting on our journey to glory! One of the big three of Portuguese football (along with Benfica and Porto), Sporting Club de Portugal, at the time of writing, are currently fifth in Primeira Liga, a league that they have won 18 times; last season they finished third, behind champions FC Porto and Benfica.
A strong Gunners team lined up here for the early kick-off at The Estádio José Alvalade Stadium, which also included, amongst our substitutes, the return of Carl Jenkinson, which I must say was a surprise (but welcome) addition to the bench tonight in Lisbon. True to form, and true to our season, the first half of tonight’s match was lukewarm by anyone’s standards, let alone Mr. Emery’s. With just two shots on target, it was looking like we were all careering towards a dull-and-dreary goalless draw, with the Arsenal machine creaking down and punching through the gears into a pitiful crawl. The one and only incident of note was when Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s free kick was punched away by the Sporting Lisbon goalie almost on the stroke of half-time; by this time we were all starting to wonder if Arsenal’s talent had been impounded at Portuguese customs upon landing.
However, the second half started, and the Arsenal model of 2018-19 started to look like the team that we have known for most of this campaign. We picked up the pace quite early, and the on-form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led the charge with two chances which were denied that on any other day would have ended up with a goal for him. Time for a change, time for fresh legs; just before the hour, Mohamed Elneny made way for Lucas Torreira, and suddenly everything started to move up a notch. Passing became more accurate, tackling was precise and crisp, and more importantly than all of these things, players started to run into space and find their renewed hunger for the game. Out of nowhere, the goal appeared, like a welcome genie out of the bottle. A clever back-heel from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which the Sporting Club defender failed to address, and Danny Welbeck capitalised immediately on the error, striking a perfect ball through the goalie’s legs and into the corner of the net; from that moment onwards, the match was truly ours. As Mr. Emery is prone to do in these situations, more substitutions became paramount. Danny Welbeck left the pitch in favour of Alexandre Lacazette, and six minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang followed him into the dressing room, to be replaced by Alex Iwobi; and apart from one or two chances here and there, the match was ours, even after a mysterious five minutes of injury time.
Not wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, our defence is still problematical at times; it’s not just the centre backs either, the full-backs charge up the field and don’t recover quickly enough – they lack awareness at times and get caught too many times out of position. These problems, which may seem minor at the moment will return to haunt us in the future when we meet teams in the Premier League that can (and will) punish us badly for these indiscretions. But eleven matches undefeated speak for themselves, and the stats that state high percentage possession are always welcome to see, of course. Next match is Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park this Sunday, and the expectations are growing ever higher with each game. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners.
Victoria Concordia Crescit.