To say it has been a poor season for The Gunners is an understatement. Unfortunately, Mikel Arteta hasn’t been the saviour many predicted he would be when he returned to the club after replacing Unai Emery.
While his CV wasn’t impeccable, the fact he had served under Pep Guardiola was exciting. Plus, as a former player, he should understand the culture and what the club needs to do to change. But none of that has happened so far, with Premier League form hitting a low point and Champions League qualification out of the question.
That being said, it seems as if Spaniard has an ace card up his sleeve – the Europa League.
Top Four Through the Backdoor
In the past, the Europa League was a bit of a joke competition because it wasn’t as reputable as the Champions League. It never will be in its own right, yet the fact that the winners progress to the biggest competition in club football means it has taken on new significance.
Essentially, the tournament is Arsenal’s lifeline as it will have a knock-on effect throughout the entire football club. For one thing, the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will be more likely to stay if they are playing against the top sides from around the continent. Secondly, the money that qualification generates is much needed in an era when clubs are poorly run and must find funds from elsewhere to rebuild squads.
Finally, it will give a young team the confidence boost it requires to hit the ground running in 2021/22. The Premier League betting doesn’t inspire that at the minute, with Arsenal ranked at 66/1 before a ball has even been kicked. However, securing European honours should change that. After all, you can’t take any European champions lightly, even if this season has been unpredictable in North London.
More Trophies Equal More Time
The Premier League may be the club’s bread and butter, and the Champions League is every team’s dream, yet nothing beats winning trophies, regardless of whether they are big, small, or medium-sized.
Supporters can get behind a winning team because the squad gives them experiences that they will never forget. As a result, the fanbase could get behind Arteta and his men and ask the hierarchy to give him another spell to prove his worth. It happened last season when the Spaniard led Arsenal to FA Cup glory by beating Chelsea in the final at Wembley.
Lots of people were sceptical about whether Arteta should still be in charge because the growth they expected wasn’t evident. Of course, after securing winners’ medals for the oldest competition in club football, they couldn’t help but wait another year to see if his plan would come to fruition.
Experience for a Young Side
▪️ Arsenal start contract negotiations with Emile Smith Rowe— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) April 26, 2021
▪️ Club paying more than 90% of Ozil's wages – contract expires in June
▪️ Super League speeds up Garlick's Premier League exit
The manager has decided that youth is the way to go after Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka repaid his faith this term. Undoubtedly, they have been the two biggest hits for Arsenal in a season that has been filled with lows.
However, although they have been incredibly consistent, they aren’t the finished article by any means. What they require is more game time in pressure-cooker matches that test them to their limits. The Prem is an excellent place to be for that because the league is very competitive. Still, there’s no better way to improve than to play against high-quality players from across the continent who have different attributes.
If Arsenal FC goes all the way to the final in August and ends up lifting the trophy, it’s hard to see how the likes of Smith Rowe and Saka won’t be spearheading the first 11 next season. With hungry and cultured talent like them at the forefront of the squad, Arsenal could transform into the team Arteta has always envisioned.
Once that happens, he might be the manager that leads them through another successful period, a lot like Arsene Wenger in the late 90s and early 2000s.