Could EL Success Be Crucial to Arsenal’s Progression Under Emery?

As Shkodran Mustafi’s header hit the back of the net at the Emirates in the Gunners’ recent Europa League match with Bate Borisov, the collective sigh of relief could be heard around the stadium.

Having lost 1-0 in Belarus a week earlier, Arsenal’s ambitions for a European trophy hung in the balance. A tepid and lacklustre display had seen them fall to shock defeat on foreign soil, but they were back on form for the second leg.

The Europa League is seen very much as a second prize in the football world. Once upon a time, there were three European competitions, with both the UEFA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup seen as relatively prestigious. Now, in the eyes of many, only the Champions League matters.

File:Shkodran Mustafi20140714 0012 (cropped).jpg

Mustafi – By Marcello Casal Jr/ Agência Brasil –, CC BY 3.0 br

Whilst it was England against Germany in all four ties of the Champions League’s last 16, Sweden and Belarus stood in the way of British sides in the second-tier competition. Chelsea overcame Malmo 5-1 on aggregate and the Gunners went on to secure a 3-0 win, giving them a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

Arsenal are now amongst the favourites for the trophy with MoPlay, where you can also back them in-play to turn matches around as they did in the last 32. If either the Gunners or Chelsea lift the trophy, it will be the eighth year in a row that either a Spanish club or English club have won it.

That must be tempting for Gunners boss Unai Emery. His first season in the English game has been marked only by a continuation of the issues that dogged Arsene Wenger. There’s been the key player contract wrangle, with Aaron Ramsey failing to agree a stay under Emery, just as Sanchez had under Wenger.

There’s been early promise, so often the case with Wenger’s sides, but in the end, it’s largely been beset by defensive inadequacies and blowing big games. Liverpool beat the Gunners 5-1 and both Manchester clubs registered wins against them as well.

There’s no lack of quality in the Arsenal side, but if they’re going to assert any sort of dominance domestically, they must find a midfielder capable of dictating the play. In Aubameyang and Lacazette, they have two fantastic players going forward, but there’s a lack of substance behind them.

File:Patrick Vieira - Inter Mailand (3).jpgVieira – By Steindy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Whether they’ve ever truly replaced Patrick Vieira is open for debate, but if they’re to attract players of the highest quality once more, they have to win something. Players are motivated by money, of course, but they’re also wanting silverware.

If Arsenal can overcome French side Rennes, 11th in Ligue 1, they’ll be through to the quarter-finals in a competition hardly brimming with Europe’s finest. Whilst it might ‘only’ be the Europa League, it presents a viable route into the big one, the Champions League.

It was once unthinkable for the Gunners not to be in that competition and with the Premier League looking increasingly tight, this might be their only way of getting back amongst the big boys.

If they can do that, maybe Unai Emery will be able to attract that one player that makes a Europa League side a Champions League contender.


  1. For me I prefer finishing in the top four rather than winning the Europa league. If the manager finishes in the top four I think this will give him much belief that he can challenge for the title. If he wins the Europa league and say finish fifth or six i would be too nervous thinking it’s Sevilla all over again. However a top four finish plus the Europa league would be crazy sweet.

    1. Yes, it’s been a long time since Arsenal won a major trophy and Arsenal popularity has decreased outside England because of the drought

      EL trophy is still more prestigious than the FA Cup and it will help Arsenal’s status as a top European club

  2. I prefer Winning Europa league
    I want silverware
    If we win Europa League we win both a European trophy and also win the right to play in Champions League. We get both.
    Also we’ve never won it before. So I want to win all trophies at least once.
    We can always finish in top 4 next season
    But I hope we win Europa AND finish in top 4

    1. Agree. Trophy +UCL is better than just UCL. Whatever the method, the season is a success if we are back in champions league. Still a ways to go, but it’s possible. Arsenal’s European trophy haul is quite small so I would like this trophy very much.

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