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Arsenal need Europa League success more than Wenger realises

Friday 29th September 2017
Last season's fifth-place Premier League finish saw Arsenal enter Europe's second-tier competition this campaign, for the first time in 17 years. It also meant the Gunners missed out on the Champions League after featuring in the prestigious tournament for 19 consecutive seasons.

A top-four finish in the league has been Arsenal's main aim in recent times, but they failed to achieve that last season. And there are already suggestions that the North London club should follow in Manchester United's footsteps by taking the Europe League seriously as a way of getting back into the Champions League.

However, Arsene Wenger has a differing opinion. The Gunners boss has reiterated that he would rather secure a return to the Champions League the traditional way rather than attempt to emulate Man United.
The Red Devils failed to break into the Premier League top four last campaign, finishing sixth – one position below Arsenal - but Jose Mourinho's side had the Europa League as their saving grace. A 2-0 victory over Ajax in the final earned them the right to compete in this season's Champions League.

To support his view, Wenger included a number of youngsters in his Europa League squad, meaning the competition will be treated as a domestic cup while prioritizing the Premier League. That decision could haunt Arsenal in the end.

It appears the French manager has made the wrong decision as to how to achieve his aim of securing qualification for the Champions League next season. It is no longer news that Arsenal failed to sufficiently bolster their squad during the summer transfer window. They are already struggling in the Premier League, currently in the seventh position, six points off the leaders, Manchester City.

A single goal defeat to Stoke City was followed by an embarrassing 4-0 thumping at the hands of Liverpool, suggesting that the Gunners may struggle to finish among the top four once again.

Finishing in the Champions League places requires consistency with the right mentality. A strong squad depth is also important. It is not certain Arsenal can provide those qualities over a full season. Whereas Chelsea, Man City and Man United all spent huge amounts to improve their squads in summer, while Tottenham and Liverpool also look dangerous. Therefore, Wenger's side have it all to do.

The Gunners chances of qualifying for Europe's biggest club competition via the Premier League look slim, while the Europa League provides a more glaring opportunity to achieve the same objective.

In the Europa League, Arsenal were drawn in Group H alongside FC Koln, BATE Borisov and Red Star Belgrade, making it entirely realistic for them to finish top and progress to the knockout stages.
Arsenal tasted victory in their opening two games of the competition - 3-1 at home to Cologne, followed by a 4-2 win in Belarus against Bate Borisov. Although some encouragement can be taken from those results, Wenger would be wise to take the Europa League more seriously than he's previously suggested, as it's Arsenal's best route back into the Champions League.

Arsenal's squad isn't strong enough to compete at the Premier League's top end. They should follow Man United's lead by focusing on winning the Europa League. Achieving that objective would also give Wenger a first major European trophy, laying to rest his failures over the last decade.
Aje Omolayo

I like to think of myself as an easy going lover of all things football, however, I do class myself as a die-hard Arsenal fan but I'm not biased enough to view life at the Emirates through rose-tinted spectacles and can appreciate when we are beaten by the better team on the day.


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