There’s been little to get excited about in the red half of north London thus far this season. Arsenal has left much to be desired in the way of results, and there’s not much left to play for at the Emirates other than attempting to restore some pride before the season is out.
Talk of relegation was on the cards earlier in the campaign, and as the Gunners slumped to eight defeats in their first 14 league games it was reported that the club’s hierarchy even started to implement clauses in case they did face the dreaded drop to the Championship.
However, the tide seemed to turn when Mikel Arteta’s men stunned Chelsea on Boxing Day and went on an impressive streak of seven league games without defeat.
That unbeaten run provided a bit of hope for the Gunners as they clawed their way back into the top half of the table and got within just six of the top four. But, two successive defeats against Wolves and Aston Villa have resulted in Arsenal falling back into the bottom half and they are now nine points off fourth and even eight points behind the Europa League spots.
That aside, there will also be no domestic trophies for Arteta’s side this season either. The defense of their FA Cup was ended in just the fourth round by Southampton, whilst they were thrashed 4-1 by Manchester City in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup.
It certainly makes for grim reading, and the demise of Arsenal has been as clear as day this season. However, there is hope that it won’t all be doom and gloom. After all, they still have the Europa League to play for.
In the past, the members of the so-called ‘Big Six’ have sneered at Europe’s secondary competition, but it now holds a much bigger prize for the winner – a sought-after place in the Champions League.
Arsenal is behind their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in the outright Europa League online betting at Betfair. However, winning the competition is going to be no easy task.
Benfica awaits the Gunners in the last 32 and progressing to the Round of 16 ahead of the Portuguese side is a real possibility. Despite being one of Europe’s biggest spenders last summer, As Águias have also had their own struggles. They are currently fourth in the Primeira Liga, 11 points behind league leaders Sporting Lisbon, whilst they qualified to the Round of 32 behind Rangers in Group D.
It is also worth noting that Arsenal’s form in the Europa League is in stark comparison to their domestic form. Arteta’s side won all six of their games to progress from Group B. However, with all due respect, Molde, Rapid Vienna and Dundalk hardly posed any real threats.
Looking at the Gunners and Benfica’s current form, it’s hard to tell who is going to win. But Arsenal will be confident given that Benfica’s ‘home’ tie has been switched to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, stripping As Águias of any home comforts, before hosting the Portuguese side in London.
Given the standard of many of the sides remaining in the competition, it’s hard to picture Arsenal lifting the Europa League trophy in May. However, it would certainly save their season.
After all, Champions League football is the goal for all the ‘Big Six’, and the Gunners booking a place amongst Europe’s elite for the first time since they reached the Round of 16 in 2017 would provide a major boost for the club heading into next season.