Will Wenger finally Embrace Europa League?
There hasn’t been much buzz around the Europa League draw from Gunners fans. Perhaps the prospect of a freezing away trip to Östersunds in northern Sweden wasn’t welcomed with open arms like a trip to Milan or Bilbao would be. However, as most Arsenal fans have not been shy in saying, this is a big opportunity for Arsène Wenger and his men. The manager, however, must treat the competition in this year’s Europa League with the respect they deserve.
How far can Arsenal go in the competition? Well, it is easy to point to an average Manchester United side winning the Europa League Final last season. However, they overcame Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo on the way to the Final against Ajax. With all due respect, these sides are not exactly European footballing powerhouses right now. Arsenal may have to dispatch the likes of Napoli, Atlético Madrid or Borussia Dortmund if they are to win the tournament. It is a freak year, with some really tough teams joining from the Champions League.
Bookies like the Look of Arsenal and Atlético Madrid
The bookies have, in fact, made Arsenal second-favourites at 6/1 (Bet365) to win the Europa League, just behind Atlético at 9/2. Surprisingly, Dortmund and Napoli are in double figures at 11/1 and 12/1 respectively. Even the staunchest Gunners fans would agree that 6/1 is a bit short for Arsenal, considering the tough teams left in the competition. Indeed, nobody is even sure just at what point Wenger will start prioritising the Europa League over the Premier League. If you want to view more markets for the Gunners this season, you can check out Arsenal’s latest betting odds at the Freebets.co.uk Premier League page.
If Arsenal are to go deep into the Europa League, they must first deal with Östersunds. Of course, it is highly unlikely that Arsenal will have a problem here. In fact, they are priced at 1/10 to qualify for the next round. But, the Swedish side were thoroughly decent in their qualifying group, finishing level on points with Athletic Bilbao to qualify for the knockout phases. Their main threat could come from Saman Ghoddos, an Iranian international who can play anywhere across an attack and knows where the goal is. Many Arsenal fans will undoubtedly be surprised to learn that two English players play for Östersunds: Curtis Edwards, a midfielder who started his career at Darlington, and Jamie Hopcutt, another midfielder who started his career at York City. Both are regular starters in this Östersunds side.
Too Good an Opportunity for Wenger to Pass Up
Look, even if Wenger plays the kids, it would be a huge shock for Arsenal to mess this one up and not make it into the Last 16. However, it is important for Wenger to really start phasing in the more senior players into the team for these matches. There are perhaps a dozen sides harbouring real ambitions to win this competition, so the matches are going to get a lot tougher after this round. It could be difficult, but there may be some glamour ties for Arsenal fans to look forward to over the next few months. And, if Wenger can get his sums right, some silverware too.