5 fine reasons why Arsenal should enjoy the Europa League
1. They can actually win a European trinket
Arsene Wenger signed a new two-year contract back in May and outlined his determination to “continue making history with Arsenal and winning trophies”. He presumably had the Premier League in mind – however unlikely that may seem – but the Frenchman will be painfully aware of the lack of European silverware in Arsenal's trophy cabinet.
Wenger has thus far drawn a blank in Europe and will therefore be ultra keen to write himself into the club’s record books
One Fairs Cup – won in 1970 – and a Cup Winners' Cup, secured in dramatic fashion against Parma in 1994, bears little or no comparison with rivals Manchester United and Liverpool, who have stacks of European pots tucked away in their club museums. It reinforces the view that, big club though Arsenal undoubtedly are, they’re not quite part of the continental elite.
Despite steering Arsenal to the 2000 UEFA Cup Final – lost on penalties to Galatasaray – and the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2006, Wenger has thus far drawn a blank in Europe. He will, therefore, be ultra keen to change all of that in 2017/18. As the Frenchman himself said in May, following the FA Cup final win against Chelsea: “Fans at Arsenal will always remember the trophies their club won.”
This season’s Europa League represents a golden opportunity for Wenger to finally win European silverware for his club.
2. Champions League was depressing anyway
It may be heralded as the promised land, but in reality the Champions League has been little more than a source of frustration - and, on several occasions, downright misery - for Arsenal fans. Throughout innumerable group stage matches under the lights, lethargic crowds have failed to rustle up a great deal of enthusiasm for a raft of dead-rubber matches.
There was something Sisyphus-like about watching Arsenal labour to qualify for a tournament they could never hope to win
Then when it came to the last 16, Arsenal supporters have spontaneously combusted in frustration when their side claimed pyrrhic victories against Europe’s finest. A 3-0 home victory over Milan in 2012 failed to overturn the horrendous 4-0 clobbering at the San Siro a fortnight earlier. Then there was a spirited 2-0 victory in Munich in 2013 – but Arsenal still went out having lost the first leg 3-1.
Meanwhile, last season’s turkey shoot affair against Bayern (Arsenal lost 10-2 on aggregate) and the chastening 5-1 aggregate clobbering by Barcelona in 2016 merely destabilised the squad and made the natives more restless. Truth be told, few Arsenal supporters genuinely looked forward to watching the likes of Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski play at the Emirates on big European nights; it usually only results in pain and humiliation.
One day, Arsenal fans may once again relish the chance to see their team playing on the biggest stage, but not right now. There was something Sisyphus-like about watching Arsenal labour to qualify for a tournament they could never hope to win, then seeing them crash and burn every February. It was pointless, futile and depressing. Their supporters won’t have to endure that type of carnage again in five months' time - provided Bayern don’t finish third in their Champions League group, of course.