After beating AC Milan in the first leg away at the San Siro and then triumphing victorious at the Emirates, the Gunners proceeded to the next round of the Europa League.
They are tipped as the favourites alongside Spanish giants Atletico Madrid who face Sporting Lisbon. Arsenal were drawn with Russian side CSKA Moscow, a team who have lost their last five games against English opposition. Whereas, Arsenal are yet to win in four trips to Russia. The first leg will be played at the Emirates on 5th April and the second leg 12th April in Moscow.
Arsenal, the lone English representatives in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase, won four of their six autumn encounters to top Group H before knocking out European debutants Östersund in the round of 32 then winning both legs against Milan – 2-0 in Italy and 3-1 in north London.
Arsenal are 13 points behind fourth-place Tottenham in the Premier League meaning their hopes of qualification for next season’s Champions League are slim. However, the Gunners are through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League and know that winning the tournament will guarantee a place in the Champions League.
After a fractious season, the clamour for Wenger to leave has grown significantly, however, with a contract until 2019, he has made clear he intends to honour his deal. Nevertheless, it has been suggested Wenger may opt to leave if Arsenal are successful in the Europa League
They have all the right qualities to win the Europa League with stellar players like Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Petr Cech to name a few. A team full of internationals that play in one of the world’s most demanding league have the winning formulae to go all the way. Spurs occupy the final Champions League qualification place, with Chelsea three points adrift of the north London outfit.
Wenger must therefore put all his eggs in the Europa League basket as winning the competition would be rewarded with a Champions League place next year. However, to do so Arsenal will have to negotiate CSKA Moscow and then potentially Atletico Madrid, Lazio or Marseille.
All in all, there will be many factors which will decide Arsenal’s fate should they win the Europa League. The obvious ones being suspensions and injuries. Arsenal are a team known for their lengthy injury list, currently Lacazette is a doubt, which is a shame for Arsenal, as they forked out a lot of money for the French striker.
If, Xhaka, who is prone to collect yellow cards, stays out of trouble then Arsenal will not be too concerned in the midfield department. Xhaka, who is Wenger’s first choice CDM would be a vital blow should he not be able to start a game due to suspension. Even though, Elneny signed a new contract recently, his performances have been lacking quality of late.
Up top, the likes of Danny Welbeck, who will be wanting to impress Gareth Southgate to push for a start in Russia, could be Arsenal’s answer. The Englishman scored against AC Milan and his form and play in Europa League could be Arsenal’s golden ticket to a smooth route to the final.
Written by Giovan Hayer
Follow Giovan on Twitter @GiovanH
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