Last week news went round the entire world that UEFA had banned Manchester City from all European competitions for the next two seasons. There were a few things that came to mind. Firstly, that there is a fighting chance that Arsenal could qualify for Europe’s most prestige competition (the Champions League) – but only if the club finished in fifth place in the league. Other reactions from fans have been that City will fight and win against the ban: which is now headed to the familiar court that overturned Chelsea’s transfer ban for two windows down to one (Court of Arbitration for Sport). Others are willing to let this season go and build upon the work Mikel has done since taking over has been a talk on many podcasts and social media.
A return to Tuesday or Wednesday nights is still in our own hands. In the Europa League we have managed something near impossible by winning in Athens against a very determined Olympiakos side. Although it gives us a small advantage at home, we need to make sure the job is fully finished at the Emirates. Recently the players have given interviews to say that they are happy to be playing again (Xhaka) or wanting trophies to be lifted by the end of the season (Leno: interview via Four Four Two). The thing that probably disappointed the team most last season should’ve been the ignition for the new season; instead it left the team deflated and near unwatchable at times before the board made the decision of removing Unai from the managerial position.
To get back to the point, there is still plenty to play for this season. At the time of writing Arsenal could get a tally of seventy points. The same as last year. This season we have scored thirty six goals and conceded thirty four. Last year we finished with seventy three goals and fifty one conceded – something that might concern many fans. This may not be enough to finish in the top five spots required (if the City ban holds) to get us back into the Champions League.
If so – we would have to try the winning-the-Europa-League route again, however in Europe, there’re many teams that stand in our way: teams such as Sporting Lisbon, Leverkusen, Porto, Roma, Ajax (if they beat Getafe), Sevilla, Manchester United, Wolves, Inter Milan, Frankfurt and either Shakhtar or Benfica. An unavoidably huge challenge, but as Leno explained: “In the Europa League and FA Cup we have so many difficult games”.
Imagine the satisfaction on everybody’s face in finally gaining a European title and getting us back to somewhere we haven’t been for nearly four years. Under the Wenger era we had a few finals that we just couldn’t get over the line. Hopefully it’s time for this to change and maybe, just maybe third time’s the charm (but don’t get ahead of ourselves just yet).
In summary: to the fans who think the season’s over, there is still a lot to play for. There are still two trophies on the line and a race to finish as high as possible and qualify for Europe, something we desperately need – not only to boost our financial pull, but to attract better players in the summer.