Arsenal must embrace the Europa League

Despite the 2-0 win over Manchester United, Arsenal look to set to miss out on the Champions League. That means they will have to settle for Europa League football.

For most the Europa League is an unwanted competition; the Thursday to Sunday turnaround, the long trips to obscure nations and the general effort to win the competition has put many Premier League clubs off.

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Such comments have become boring and typical of the Premier League which admittedly has a strong sense of entitlement. The constant poor performances of English clubs in Europe surely means they cannot continue to treat the competition with such disdain.

It has been refreshing to see a change in attitude from the likes of Manchester United. Manager Jose Mourinho has rightly identified the tournament as the perfect opportunity to get the club back into the Champions League.

Although a criticism could be levelled at the Portuguese for choosing to field a weakened team for Sunday’s match at Arsenal with the Europa League in mind.

The Europa League may not have the glamour ties such as trips to Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Juventus but for Arsenal these trips usually end in devastating defeats. While it is the Gunners aim to be playing with very best, they have struggled to compete for some time.

The Europa League still has some major names in it in, with the likes of Lyon and Ajax; there are enjoyable European nights to be had for Arsenal fans.

The competition also provides the opportunity to blood youngsters. Take Tottenham who used the competition to give Harry Kane his first opportunity. The striker was going around the Football League before he was brought back to prove himself. He did exactly that in the Europa League and landed himself a first-team position.

In the past Arsenal have typically used the League Cup for this but with more games the Europa League seems the perfect environment. It also gives them a taste for European football.

Some may argue missing out on European football altogether would benefit Arsenal. For Chelsea the lack of European action has been a major contributing factor behind their success this season. But this argument would be assuming Arsenal have genuine chance at the league title. As much as they are always in the title conversation their consistency in the league over the last ten years suggests they are some way off winning another title.

For too long finishing in the top four has been seen as greater glory than any cup competition. In a monetary sense it is understandable given how lucrative the Champions League is. But for ordinary fans the opportunity to win silverware and be involved in memorable games should be above all.

Arsenal fans want change and the Europa League gives that to them. Admittedly some may see it as a step backwards but it provides the chance to move forward. There needs to be an acceptance that Arsenal are not the dominant force they once were. Constant stagnation in the Champions League and in the league can only stop by building back up.

If Arsenal want to be a European power again, respecting the Europa League would be a major step towards that. Winning the competition would give them greater status than being the club that constantly slips out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage. The Gunners must embrace the competition because it represents a fresh start. It quashes the notion of  the same old Arsenal.



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