Arsenal secured their place in next season’s Europa League by finishing in fifth place in the Premier League. But having progressed to the final of this season’s Europa League, they have the chance to make a return to the Promised Land – the Champions League.
They missed out on a top four finish by just one point, meaning that arch-rivals Tottenham join Chelsea, Liverpool and Premier League champions Manchester City in next season’s Champions League.
The Gunners will face Chelsea in the final, in the hope of securing their own place in the Champions League next season. But can they realistically achieve this?
The missing man
Arsenal will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan because of security fears. There are political tensions between Armenia – Mkhitaryan’s home country – and Azerbaijan, who are hosting the Europa League final in Baku. The decision has been taken not to bring the Armenian midfielder with them.
The club are understandably devastated to have had to have taken this step, particularly because it’s not every season that the club reaches a European final, but the player’s safety has to be paramount.
The 30-year-old has been an influential member of the team this season, in particular in the Europa League. He has made 10 appearances during Arsenal’s European campaign, but hasn’t scored any goals.
In Chelsea v Arsenal odds, Chelsea are the favourites to win, and missing Mkhitaryan for the final will certainly be a blow to Arsenal’s chances of winning a European tournament since the 1990s.
End of season form
In the Premier League, it was a poor run of results at the end which cost them qualification to the Champions League. Three defeats in their final five matches reduced any hopes of making a return to Europe’s biggest club competition via the league.
A draw at home to Brighton followed and this result helped Chelsea secure Champions League football for next season, while leaving north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham to battle it out for the final spot.
While Arsenal were able to secure a 3-1 win away to Burnley, Spurs’ 2-2 draw at home to Everton was enough to secure them fourth place.
The club’s form in the Europa League is a source of great encouragement, with the Gunners having only lost twice in the competition this season. A 1-0 away defeat to BATE and 3-1 loss away to Rennes in the knockout stages didn’t stop Arsenal’s home form from overturning both defeats.
They have only failed to win once at home – in a 0-0 draw with Sporting CP in the group stage. Other than that, they’ve defeated every single side that has visited the Emirates in the Europa League this season.
With impressive away wins against Napoli and Valencia in the quarter and semi-finals respectively, this team certainly has the character to win it.
If Arsenal are to lift the Europa League, then star strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will need to be firing on all cylinders. The latter had an excellent finish to his Premier League season, scoring a brace in the win over Burnley to win the Premier League Golden Boot along with Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who all scored 22 goals.
He could repeat the feat in the final, as he is still in contention to win the Europa League Golden Boot. Aubameyang has scored eight goals in the competition this season. He could tie for first if he scores a brace and former Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud fails to score for Chelsea.
The excitement for the final is building up to be a great spectacle. Can Arsenal win it? Of course they can, but Chelsea are an equally dangerous prospect.