“When you think of a future without Arsenal in European competition, it doesn’t feel right.” Those were the words of Bernd Leno before Arsenal lock horns with Czech champions Slavia Prague on Thursday.
It is a pretty strange situation Arsenal find themselves in. There are only two possibilities which they can encounter. First, to win the Europa League and play in the Champions League next season.
Second, to not win the Europa League and go a whole season without any European football. Read the last two sentences again and you will realize the extent to which they differ.
The last time The Gunners were not involved in European football was in 1995-96 after they finished 12th in the Premier League the previous season.
And it looks like that history will be repeated, if they don’t lift the Europa League title on 26th May in Gdansk, Poland.
With a team lying at the middle of the league table for the majority of two years, playing in Europe’s elite competition feels surreal by winning the Europa.
In financial terms it can boost Arsenal revenues to a massive extent. The rebuilding job that Arteta plans to achieve will be given a massive push if they qualify for the Champions League.
The current Arsenal crop, with no doubt whatsoever, is not good enough for the elite competition. We have already watched Arsenal outplayed by teams like Liverpool and Manchester City.
And the Champions League is full of teams that can hurt the Gunners to a great range. But before the Arsenal fans and players start dreaming of a berth in UCL, they must overcome the hurdle in Prague.
Slavia Prague should not be taken lightly. The Czech side are unbeaten in the league for over a year. They have also not been defeated in the last 23 matches in all competitions.
This is a make-or-break tie for Arsenal. Win this and they would strengthen their ambition to lifting the trophy at the of the campaign.
Lose it, and Mikel Arteta’s position will be in scrutiny, more than ever.
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