Assessing Arsenal’s Europa League Title Hopes

Arsenal's Europa League

The obvious goal for Arsenal this season would have surely been to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. It is something they fell short of doing last season, by one game. With a club-record signing brought in as well as defensive reinforcements, the Gunners would have hoped to be in a better position come February. With Arsenal sitting in 10th place, there is little hope of qualifying via the Premier League. Can Arsenal’s Europa League campaign get them to the Champions League?

Assessing Arsenal’s Europa League Title Hopes


On paper, this Arsenal team is more than qualified to make a deep run. But for a multitude of reasons, the performances have not been up to the required level. Are there places where they could improve? Well, of course there are. Aside from maybe Liverpool, every team in the league can get better. But Arsenal do have a quite capable squad.

Back Line

In Between the Sticks

In goal, Bernd Leno has rarely put a foot wrong and deserves to start every match. It will be interesting to see if Mikel Arteta chooses to rotate keepers in the Europa League knockout stages. Unai Emery infamously picked backup Petr Cech for last season’s final as Cech was set to retire. The final game of his career was a 4-1 Europa League Final loss against his former club, Chelsea. This season, the choice lies between Leno and Emiliano Martinez. The Argentine shot-stopper has shown he is a decent keeper, but maybe not one to pin Champions League hopes on.


Arsenal’s backline has been heavily scrutinized for quite a few years actually. Although this year, things have gotten even worse, Mikel Arteta seems to have restored a bit of stability at the back. Even Shkodran Mustafi is keeping clean sheets for God’s sake. One wonders what Arteta can do with talented defenders. The defence must be solid for this run to be realistic.

At full-back, if Hector Bellerin can remain healthy, that is a huge step in the right direction. On the other side, three players have rotated at left-back depending on availability. Sead Kolašinac, Kieran Tierney, and Bukayo Saka have all gotten playing time at left-back this season. You can even throw Nacho Monreal into the mix considering he started the first three games of the season. Arteta will be looking for some consistency in this spot, which might be difficult considering how prone to injury both Kolašinac and Tierney are. Saka has looked the part at left-back and may be the best player the club has in that spot. His man of the match performance against Newcastle United was yet another showing of the promise the teenager has in defence. Of course, he benefits from the attacking duties that Arteta has given to whoever plays in that position. But even defensively, he has looked the part. He very well may end up as a left-back in his senior career.

The Middle of the Park

With Granit Xhaka fully reinstated to the team, it seems Arteta will be making Lucas Torreira fight even harder for his spot in the team. It will be interesting to see how the season shapes out for Matteo Guendouzi after he was dropped from the team due to a reported incident in training involving a disagreement with Mikel Arteta. Dani Ceballos and Mesut Ozil both started at the weekend and they played very well. The Gunners have been begging for some creativity and goals from the midfield, and finally they got it. Consistency in that department will go a long way.

Goal Scorers

Nicolas Pepe has not performed even close to the level that would be expected of a club-record signing. He stepped his game up against Newcastle and Arsenal will be hoping this is the turning point for him. In addition, they are hoping the same for Alexandre Lacazette who just scored for the first time in all competitions since December.  The importance of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one that was expected. But the real key to the attack is Gabriel Martinelli. Can the teenager sensation spark something in this team to help make a run. He certainly has the quality to, but can he remain consistent. It speaks volumes to how far the Gunners have fallen that an 18-year-old can shape the season. But this is the position the club have put themselves in.

The Favorites

Regardless of the status of the club, Arsenal are not the favourites of the tournament, and quite frankly, they are not even in the top three. According to bet365, Arsenal have the 5th best chances at taking home the cup. What teams have a better shot?


The reigning Dutch Champions disappointingly dropped out of the Champions League group stage down the Europa League after a third-place finish in a group with Valencia and Chelsea. Nevertheless, they made a memorable and unexpected run to the Champions League semifinals last season. They were seconds away from reaching the final before Lucas Moura broke their hearts. Although they have lost key players from last season including Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, they still have a very talented squad that could make a run. The difference-maker for Ajax will be their willingness to play their stars in the Europa League when their Eredivisie lead stands at six points. The round of 32 draw sees Ajax paired with Getafe.

Inter Milan

Antonio Conte’s first season at Inter seems to be going according to plan, minus the fact that they failed to get to the Champions League knockouts. But, one can be forgiven for having a tough time navigating a group with Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. Inter currently sit in third place in Serie A, trailing Juventus by three points.. Having just signed every player in the world in the January window, they have the depth to make a push in both competitions. Inter go up against Ludogorets in the round of 32.

Manchester United

The Red Devils are still looking for consistency under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. They sit in seventh place after the VAR fueled 2-0 over Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. They are just three points off the top four. United won the competition over Ajax in 2017. They will face Club Brugge in the round of 32.


Unai Emery’s former club at which he won three consecutive Europa League titles with round out the clubs favoured ahead of Arsenal. They are on the outside looking in at the Champions League places up for grabs in La Liga. However, they are right on the coattails of Atletico Madrid. Julen Lopetegui will try to add a sixth Europa League title. The club won a record five times in a 10-year span. Sevilla face CFR Cluj in the round of 32.

Final Verdict

There are just too many obstacles for Arsenal to overcome in the Europa League this season. It would be difficult for them to get past any of the aforementioned favourites. They must hold out hope that they continue to get favourable draws like Olympiacos. If the favourites are drawn against each other at any point, it will increase their odds, but they cannot rely on this to get through.

It might be good (not financially) for the club if they miss out on Europe altogether for next season. Although it is what no fan wants, it might give them the proper rest they need to make a better challenge for top four in Mikel Arteta’s first full season at the helm.

Main Photo