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Should Arsenal follow Manchester United's lead?

Friday 29th September 2017
Arsenal's 4-2 win over Bate Borisov on Thursday evening meant that Arsene Wenger's side maintained their 100% start to their Europa League campaign following their victory over German side FC Koln in their opening game. Their apparent ease in Europe at the moment may see Arsene Wenger opt to follow Jose Mourinho's lead from last season. 

Manchester United were able to put a fairly disappointing season behind them last campaign following a superb Europa League run which culminated in a 2-0 win over Ajax in the final, which gave them access to the Champions League once again.

Last term, United finished in sixth place in the league with 69 points, eight short of fourth-placed Liverpool and the last Champions League spot, and a massive 24 points short of champions Chelsea. However, their season was seen as a success.

Arsenal, on the other hand, finished above United and won the FA Cup, but their season was met with derision and disillusion by some sections of the support who called for a change at the top. The difference between their seasons was simply United qualifying for the Champions League, and Arsenal slipping into the Europa League.
The margins between success and failure were so slim, in fact, Arsenal missed out on the Champions League by one point. While their season probably wouldn't have been viewed as a success just because they retained their spot in Europe's premier competition, the backlash on the players and management would have been far less severe.

Perhaps then, Wenger would benefit massively from making the Europa League a top priority. Of course, Arsenal will look to gain admission to the Champions League via finishing in the top four, but the Europa League is a viable side door into the competition.

Indeed, the level of competition in the Premier League this season has stepped up another level, with United once again a force to be reckoned with. Arsenal are currently just one point shy of Tottenham in fourth, while they are six points behind first-place Manchester City. Of course, it is far too early for Wenger to solely prioritise the Europa League, as football is a fickle game in which a qualifying-campaign can fall apart at a moments notice.

For Wenger, he must utilise the talents at his disposal to stay in as many competitions as possible come the turn of the year. The first available trophy then is the Carabao Cup which is not out of their reach. What the Frenchman can't afford is another campaign in which they win the FA Cup and finish outside of the top four. While the FA Cup is not to be sniffed at, the Gunners have won the competition for a number of years and the sheen on winning it is wearing off

Should Wenger prioritise the Premier League and the Europa League then? If he were to do that then he would be able to continue their Premier League push as they look to bring an end to the dominance of Chelsea and Manchester City. After all, without the Champions League, the fans will want to see Arsenal win the Premier League above all else.

Should they begin to lose touch with the teams at the top as Arsenal so often do, then they will still have the chance of gaining Champions League football via the Europa League, with Mourinho adopting a similar approach to rest key players for Europe as a top-four place moved further from their reach.

Ultimately, Arsenal should be aiming for a return to the Champions League at the very least. However, the teams around them have strengthened a lot this summer, whereas the Gunners are still weak in key areas. The Europa League offers an easier route into the Champions League then, with the quality of opposition not in the same bracket as those in the Premier League.

Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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