The Europa League must not be seen as a sideshow
In the dark misery of this season, the Europa League has been something of a lighthouse. Youngsters like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have found their feet. The football was sometimes really fun, a stark contrast to what was offered two days later by the senior team. But the quality also got worse. More and more, we were being pegged back by teams whose highlight of the season was playing against Arsenal. By the end, we crawled through as group leaders.
The last two seasons in the Europa League have yielded at least a semi-final place. We’ve been denied by teams like Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. As things got increasingly worse this season and as teams like Inter Milan and Ajax dropped into the Europa League, it was difficult to imagine another semi-final spot.
Things have changed since then. Unai Emery has been sacked and Mikel Arteta appointed in his place.
A new energy and pattern have been inserted into the team as a whole. The results are not yet there but the on-pitch progress is clear for all to see. Potential match-ups with the likes of Ajax do not seem so terrifying now. Something has changed. We do not know by how much but we know it certainly has.
Maybe the team will click into gear and conquer all hurdles in the Europa League or maybe the damage lingers yet — we do not know. All that matters is that fans and players do not forget the Europa League is an opportunity for a happy ending to the season, an opportunity that we should all look forward to.
An article by Agboola Israel