Europa or Bust

It’s been Europa or bust for a while now – it was probably around the game at Swansea at the end of January when the importance of the Europa League suddenly started to show. The defeat to Spurs and Man City in Feb pretty much confirmed it and the defeat at Brighton in early March made it a full drawn conclusion for even the most positive of Arsenal fans.

We’ve never really been in the race for a top four place in 2018 having got zero points away from home. Five away defeats in a row is just unbelievable for a team supposed to be competing for titles. Usually you can ask me the score from a past away game from earlier in the season and I would be able to tell you exactly what happened but they have all become a blur. I was at all three victories and all of them had their moments. Burnley was a last minute penalty; we went one down at Everton and conceded twice at Palace to make it nervy at times. Brighton, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Stoke were pretty bad because we were expecting more. Liverpool, Man City, Spurs we maybe half expected, and we had the West Brom and Southampton where we were just ordinary. We actually did get our first point at Chelsea for the first time in several years but all in all, our away form has been as bad as I can remember it.

The Europa league is a strange one. Aaron Ramsey and Alexender Lacazette are our top scorer with four despite not playing any of the group stages and Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud are next with three goals (along with Welbeck) but for obvious reasons will not add to their total having left in January.

It’s a tournament that was treated as a secondary competition by many – the ground wasn’t full for the majority of the home games and it was very much a fringe squad in the group stages. Away fans, as always, sold out their allocation and having been away in Europe this year, I can honestly say it was quite pleasant with no real pressure on the result.

For me, Arsene Wenger or no Arsene Wenger, this club needed to get back into the Champions League, for revenue, for player attraction and to fill the ground up again and if you can win a European trophy on the way, why wouldn’t you take that?

Since the announcement, the focus has rightly been on Arsene Wenger’s grand farewell – and that shouldn’t change but we can’t lose sight of the main prize – the European trophy that gets us back on the top table in Europe.

Attracting a new manager for next season is the board’s biggest priority over the next few weeks / month and being in the Champions League may speed up that process.

We will begin to negotiate some commercial deals (if we haven’t already) and once again, being in the Champions League could make a big difference.

Everything is pointing towards Thursday night – despite it not being in the competition we want to be in, it’s pretty much two Champions League teams playing in a semi-final second leg of a European competition and the result of the game and a potential final may just play a huge part in the short and long term future of Arsenal football club.

Over to you, Arsene and the boys.

Akhil Vyas

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