Why Arsene Wenger should take the Europa League seriously
We take a look at why Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger should be taking the Europa League more seriously this season.
When Arsenal finished fifth in the Premier League last season, there was pandemonium among fans as they missed out on Champions League football for the first time in 20 years.
However, since the start of the season, the Gunners have given good account of themselves in the second tier of European competition having won all three of their group games so far and a win at the Emirates tomorrow will secure qualification to the knockout stages.
Arsenal, like Manchester United last season, have an opportunity to salvage a second option of Champions League qualification. However, Arsene Wenger has stated his intention is to compete in the league amidst suggestions that the Europa League should be taken as Arsenal’s best chance of a trophy this season.
Wenger has chosen to field his fringe players and youngsters in the last three Europa League games and is expected to do-so again tomorrow against Red Star Belgrade with the first team regulars given a rest.
Obviously this should reap benefits in the Premier League but it also gives the manager a chance to take a closer look at players like Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to see if they have what it takes to be first team regulars at Arsenal.
However, Wenger should be taking this tournament seriously as he has not won any European titles during his career in north London so the Europa League is a great opportunity to end that drought.
During Wenger’s 21 years at the Emirates, Arsenal have only played in two European finals; the UEFA Cup final in 2000 and the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2006. With Ladbrokes backing Arsenal as the favorite to win the tournament, I think it would be negligible of Wenger to dismiss the Europa League – especially with Arsenal already well off the pace in the league.
However, I think Wenger may begin to field a stronger side during the knockout stages when the big teams drop in to the Europa League from the Champions League. The likes of Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli could all end up in the knockout stages of the Europa League so Arsenal will need to play a strong team if they want to stand a chance of winning the competition.
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