Betfair may have them third favourites (behind Napoli and Chelsea) to win the Europa League this season, but here are four good reasons why Arsenal can win it.
- Unai Emery is a master of Europe
Having won the Europa League in three successive campaigns with Sevilla, the first in his debut season with the Spanish club, Unai Emery has what it takes to go on and win the competition for a fourth time with Arsenal. During his time at Sevilla, Emery noticed that English clubs weren’t taking the competition seriously, but since UEFA changed the rules, offering a Champions League place to the winner, two English clubs have reached the final. Emery is also a master of working to financial restraints, something that’s been apparent during his current tenure at Arsenal – but is also incredible at getting the best out of his players. He’s proven this so far during his time in North London, too. But winning this year’s competition will transport Arsenal back to where they’d like to be – playing in the highest competition – and also see the revenue roll in.
- Local rivals Chelsea are yet to adapt to their new manager
They may be the bookies’ favourites to lift the trophy, but Chelsea in have looked a shadow of their former selves in recent weeks. Struggling to adapt to Maurizio Sarri’s more defensive-minded approach, after being so used to attacking-possession football, the Blues have seen heavy defeats at the hands of Manchester City (6-0) and Bournemouth (4-0), as well as losing to Arsenal back in January (2-0). Inconsistencies have cost the Gunners in the Premier League and after the club went on a 22-game unbeaten run at the end of last year, they’ve only won five of their last 10 games in all competitions. But it appears that the players have adapted to Emery’s high-intensity game and he’s brought some much-needed stability to the club after Wenger’s departure.
- The squad has more depth and isn’t reliant on one player
The squad has been well equipped to cover the lengthy injuries, particularly in defence, that Arsenal have suffered. Sokratis seems to have slotted in well for his debut season in the Premier League and youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles has held his own in Hector Bellerin’s position, having come back from injury himself. When results aren’t going their way, Emery is able to bring on experience from the bench through the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and even Alexandre Lacazette. But more importantly, Arsenal aren’t relying on a single player to grab the goals, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Emile Smith Rowe and Danny Welbeck netting twice in the Europa League thus far and a further six players scoring maiden goals.
- The competition isn’t as strong as last year
At this stage last year, the likes of (eventual winners) Atletico Madrid (who knocked Arsenal out in the semi-finals), RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund had all joined after dropping out of the Champions League. This season, Club Brugge, Galatasaray and Viktoria Plzeň have transferred to the Europa League. Similarly, the unseeded teams in the round of 32 aren’t as competitive in the European circuit – for example, Rennes, Krasnodar and FC Zurich. The only real threats to Arsenal are Italian giants Napoli and inter Milan – or Chelsea seeking revenge. Should Arsenal be successful in the round of 32, there’s no seeding or country protection in the following round, so they have a very good chance of progressing through the knockout stages.