Arsenal’s 1-0 victory in Portugal last Thursday night marked a professional, bide-your-time manor of victory for Unai Emery. After fluent, dynamic, fast-paced wins against Qarabag, Fulham and Leicester already in the books in October scoring 11 goals in the process, the Gunners were forced to be patient in a 1-0 win over a staunch Sporting Lisbon, surviving 15 attempts from the hosts before Danny Welbeck’s 77th-minute strike.
It’s a flexibility that Arsenal will have to become familiar with if they are to end their 25-year drought for European silverware and according to Betfair it’s a task Arsenal can achieve, sitting second favourites to win the competition at 5/1.
Arsenal knew exactly who they were getting when recruiting Emery this summer. He led Sevilla to three Europa League crowns in a row from 2014 to 2016 before taking PSG to the Round of 16 two years on the trot, coming up short against Real Madrid in 2018 after that infamous collapse against Barcelona 12 months before.
Champions League glory may have proved a step too far for the Spaniard, but if a Europa League expert is what you’re after, look no further. Arsenal’s third win in as many games in the Group Stage took Emery’s Europa League Group Stage record to 12 wins, eight draws and just one defeat from 21 games.
Another string to Emery’s Europa League bow is the fact the Gunners sit top of Group E without their array of stars. In their three group games to date, Emery has made 23 changes to the starting line-up from the previous game.
The argument is always that teams will run out of steam come the knockout stages. Whilst some of Arsenal’s biggest challengers for the Europa League title will enjoy a well-earned rest over Christmas, Emery’s men could play five games in just 15 days, including trips to Liverpool and Brighton and an FA Cup third-round tie. A trip to Anfield against the one of the league favourites will prove a difficult task for Emery’s men as the Betfair odds on Liverpool to win Premier League are fairly favourable to the Merseyside club.
Emery’s men will face stern competition if they are to claim European honours in Baku on May 29th 2019. 7/2 favourites Chelsea have already beaten Arsenal once this season and you can bet your bottom dollar Sevilla will be no pushovers in search of their sixth Europa League title since 2006 at 9/1, having netted 12 times in their opening three group games of this season’s competition.
If it’s not Sevilla it could be 20/1 shot Villarreal who continue Spain’s Europa League dominance. Since 2004, nine of the 15 winners of the competition have come from sunny Spain, with Manchester United and Chelsea England’s contribution to the winners’ plaque on the trophy in that time.
If the Bundesliga is to claim its first Europa League title since Schalke in 1997, look no further than RB Leipzig. A long-shot at 25/1, but their convincing 2-0 win over Celtic left them second in Group B on six points from three games, in prime position to strike a major blow in Europe after their rapid rise in Germany with the likes of Timo Werner, Emil Forsberg and Bruma all ready to carry on the charge.
Arsenal may need a favourable draw to persist with their chop-and-change approach in the Europa League, but with a manager with three titles behind him, Mesut Özil free from the reigns of international football and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette forming a formidable partnership up front, who’s to say Arsenal can’t go all the way with their tempting 5/1 price tag.