It may look as though Arsenal have left themselves too much to do to claim a top four finish in the Premier League, but there could still be hope. Following the news of Manchester City’s European ban, as it stands, whichever club claims that fifth spot in the league will take City’s place in the Champions League next season. This is a huge incentive to finish this season with a bang in light of this unique situation.
Claiming that fifth spot having spent a large part of the season in the second half of the table may seem an unlikely target – and William Hill’s football odds have Arsenal at 16/1 to reach the top four – but things have started to change at the Emirates in recent weeks. Since former Gunner Mikel Arteta took over as Arsenal boss, the team has reformed more of an identity, stuck to processes and displayed more unity. Attributes clearly lacking from recent seasons and certainly during the latter portion of Unai Emery’s reign.
Recent league form has shown that Arteta is very serious about working with the current players at Arsenal to reinvigorate jaded members of the squad and give chances to the younger talent. This hard work really seems to be paying off. In only his second full month in charge, Arteta was nominated for Barclays Manager of the Month for February. The nomination comes after guiding a previously lacklustre Arsenal to an impressive run of unbeaten form in the Premier League during the second month of 2020.
Of course, while league form has given fans reason to smile, Arsenal’s Europa League loss at the hands of Olympiakos on February 27 certainly wouldn’t have been part of Arteta’s plans. Players, staff and Gunners fans across the world were left heartbroken as Youssef El-Arabi slotted home in the last minute of extra-time to send the Greek side through. Arsenal’s European hopes of going one step further than being last season’s runner’s up have been well and truly dashed, but it only seems to have given the players fresh inspiration.
After being eliminated from the European competition, the players were united on social media, with many putting out positive messages. Granit Xhaka posted on his Instagram the following morning:
“Disappointment hurts, disappointment frustrates, but disappointment must drive us forward”
While defender Davis Luiz also posted on the platform:
“Hard to take it, but only God knows everything! We will keep working together, fighting until the end!!”
Arteta, at the very least, has made it clear to his players what is expected of them, what the Arsenal way should be, and the commitment they all need to show to achieve results.
If Manchester City lose their appeal, that fifth place finish is a dangling carrot for a handful of clubs, and if Arsenal’s February league form is anything to go by, they’re certainly in that race.
The Europa League may be gone, but with the Gunners still in the FA Cup running at the quarter final stage, and with the possibility of clinching the final Champions League place – this is a season that can’t be written off just yet.
What do you reckon, Gooners? Let us know in the comments…