Xhaka: Top four takes priority over Europa League

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Granit Xhaka says that qualification for next season’s Champions League by virtue of finishing in the top four is Arsenal’s priority, ahead of the Europa League and a potential trophy at the end of the season.

The Swiss international was speaking after last night’s 1-0 win over Watford which put us above Man Utd and Chelsea into fourth place, and he insists that what happens in the Premier League comes first.

In fairness to him, it’s probably a way of urging focus and not becoming distracted by the possibility of a European final, and with three of our five remaining games away from home it’s crucial we treat every game with the utmost importance.

Watford 0-1 Arsenal player ratings

“We want to stay in the top four,” he said. “We want to be back in the Champions League.

“For me, the Premier League is first and after if you can go to the final and take the Europa League, of course, it is nice as well, but for us it is the Premier League first.

“We are now in fourth place, two points over United, one game less than Chelsea and one point behind Tottenham – and they play against Manchester City this weekend.

“This can be a big weekend for us.”

Arsenal will take on Crystal Palace at home on Sunday, but first up a trip to Italy to face a team second in Serie A. We have a two goal lead from the first leg, and scoring once would mean the Italians have to score four, so we’re in a strong position, but our form on the road has been such that you can’t take anything for granted with this team.

For more discussion of the Watford game, check out the new Arsecast Extra

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YoungFabregas
YoungFabregas

Winning the Europa league would give us massive confidence going into next season – should be priority number 1!

Cape Town Gooner

Personally, I’d take top four over Europa League, because I think it’s a better indicator of progress. But I get the other argument of a trophy being a trophy, and that being the goal.

But for me the prospect of an end-of-season collapse and finishing, say, 6th and going to win the Europa league would be way worse for our confidence going in to next season, than getting knocked out vs Napoli, but putting together a solid end of season run to finish in fourth (or even third).

Mesut O'Neill
Mesut O'Neill

This is bullshit, we could finish top 4 & still not even qualify for CL therefore winning Europa has to take priority.

4 games to win guaranteed CL spot
or
5 games to come 4th & pray Chelsea or Man Utd don’t win their competition.

I know what I would prioritize.

Possession
Possession

Wouldn’t a top 4 finish still guarantee a CL place with place 7 going to a Europa league place in that scenario ?

Ilari
Ilari

4th place would take us to ucl, even if Chelsea won the UEL. The only way 4th wouldn’t give us a Champions league place, is if chelsea won the uel and Manu won the ucl. Which won’t happen. Manu will be out tonight at Nou Camp.

loose_cannon
loose_cannon

The only we could finish 4th and not get CL football would be if Chelsea and one of Spurs and United both finished outside the top 4 and both won their European cups. And that is pretty unlikely to say the least. Actually I’m not sure what happens to that Europa League CL spot if the winner has already qualified for the CL through their league position. Does it go to the runner-up?

Goonereality
Goonereality

Well, we’re a “big” club, or we’re supposed to be, so why is it one or the other? I remember in the distant past when we won two domestic “doubles”. It wasn’t “either/or” then. The problem is that we’ve had several years of dumbing down expectations – when just qualifying for a competition was “better than winning a trophy” etc. Whichever route is preferable, neither is by any means certain yet. For example, if we play against Napoli anything like we did against Everton or Watford, we’ll be in trouble. In the EPL at least we still have a few games to improve in – albeit we’ll have to do it very quickly.

SharpasFc
SharpasFc

We’ve had injuries and we lack squad depth in some areas that’s why it may come down to one or the other. I didn’t care about the Carabao cup this season and to an extent I took the FA cup defeat on the chin. Unai knows that he has to get CL qualification and if he can get it through the League then all well and good, but being the Master of the Europa I’m sure in his heart of hearts he would love to win that too. The Everton match and parts of the Watford match show that it’s a personnel issue that is affecting our away form, but because he’s having to be strategic in who he plays then it literally might come down to one or other competition.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla
Gutbukkit Deffrolla

The problem is that if they all come out saying Europa League is priority 1 and then we lose at Napoli, the fallout could screw their minds up in the PL as well.

Goonereality
Goonereality

Which is why prioritising one over the other isn’t a good idea. We should be going after both objectives, top four and Europa League. Frankly, I don’t think we’ll get both but let’s give it a go. The big weakness is the lack of quality across the squad but we are where we are and can’t change that until the Summer.

N10
N10

Yep. It’s often forgotten that when players and coaches speak publicly there’s always another layer or two of meaning to consider. A lot of public communication is impression management and symbolism, especially in high-stakes ($) enterprises like top football.

Chamakhyungpark
Chamakhyungpark

How about both?

Spanish Gooner
Spanish Gooner

Respectfully, I disagree. The chance to win a European trophy doesn’t come around very often, and especially for a side with our lack of European prestige (compared to United, Liverpool, even Chelsea now) we should take the chance with all we have. If we get past Napoli and win on Sunday I make us favourites to do both, so hopefully we don’t have to choose!

Goonereality
Goonereality

Hopefully, you’re right but “favourites” to win the Europa League with (currently) several other good teams – in European competition terms – still around? Let’s not count our European chickens too soon, some Gooners began to do that in the competition last season and we know how that ended.

Chidi
Chidi

I quite agree with Granit. We can’t prioritise the Europa league for now as finishing second doesn’t give you champions league….3rd and 4th in the league would though.

Mesut O'Neill
Mesut O'Neill

Not if Tottenham, United or Chelsea won their European trophy & finish outside top 4

Bould's Eyeliner
Bould's Eyeliner

Winning a cup competition is always more of a difficult mental and physical challenge than a league finish. You’re just determined to want the team to be trophy hungry

Viva La Prof
Viva La Prof

Can’t we do the the one where we double qualify and it ends up with the spunts being 1 point short of qualifying for anything at all?

Arse City Blues
Arse City Blues

Of course they will be desperate to win Europa, who wouldn’t want to do the best possible in any competition? (Apart from maybe the League cup where it can become a distraction and won’t necessarily be prioritised). I am confident we can finish third and win the Europa cup or whatever it’s called now. Xhaka is just urging focus and quelling any complacency for the league finale I reckon.

Crash Fistfight
Crash Fistfight

Here’s a clue as to what it’s called: it’s in the title of this article. (Also twice more in the article itself and in a few comments below.)

Arse City Blues
Arse City Blues

Meow.. sorry man how bloody ignorant of me.

Frank Bascombe
Frank Bascombe

Not so much ignorant as… pretentious.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla
Gutbukkit Deffrolla

No, he wasn’t being pretentious. You can’t be pretentious on behalf of somebody else.

Arse City Blues
Arse City Blues

Pretentious… moi?

daremkd
daremkd

What if we finish 4th and chelsea win the EL? will they take our place ? It is confusing.

Mesut O'Neill
Mesut O'Neill

They would take our place therefore winning EL should be as big as incentive as 4th.

Basically win every game this season & we’ll be ok

DB's first touch
DB's first touch

I believe they would only take our place IF either of Man U or sp*rs also finished outside of the top 4 team but won the CL. My understanding is that the max. number of teams from any league is 5 (and less for leagues where fewer than 4 teams normally qualify for CL): Top 4 plus CL/EL winner if outside the top 4. So the only way 4th place is bumped from the CL is if both european cup winners come from that league and both of them are outside the top 4…in which case, top 3 plus the two cup winners (CL/EL) would qualify

Mesut O'Neill
Mesut O'Neill

You are correct, I didn’t realize they had opened it up to allow 5 teams to compete. But win every game at it does become a moot point.

Mesut O'Neill
Mesut O'Neill

Winning Europa League should be priority.

There is a possibility that even finishing 3rd would not get automatic CL qualification if 2 of the 3 win the European trophies & both finish outside top 4.

Mesut O'Neill
Mesut O'Neill

Seems upto 5 teams can qualify so that 3rd place is guaranteed.

Teryima Adi
Teryima Adi

They play like a scared bunch away from home. This needs to change.

Jarghs
Jarghs

The stick Wenger used to get for the whole ‘fourth place is like a trophy’ thing…

Scwibble
Scwibble

Was a different time

Longbow
Longbow

We had better players back then. We should have at least won the league back then with the talent we had.

Santori
Santori

Been saying this for a while.

Whilst Europa also offers an opportunity to CL, top four (PL) is the competition that is more ‘controlled’.

We only have ourselves to blame if we drop the ball like at Everton.

We’ve also lost plenty of winnable games at BHA, Soton and West Ham this season.

I’m not sure why we have this issue away from home but we need to rectify it quickly. Stll some very difficult games to come with Wolves and Leicester.

Santori
Santori

Granit. Not sure if he will start in Italy on account he just came back in from injury.

Played well for me against Watford considering recent return.

A couple of times he was on the wrong side of a tackle or two but generally aware enough to be there and critically this season much better off not lunging into things and conceding penalties or free kicks.

Plus going forward, he splays the ball across from deep to our forwards which makes our often ponderous build up play less ponderous.

We were full of sterile possession yesterday.

We need to find a way to be more dynamic and proactive with space. When the midfielders come deep to receive the ball off the keeper, we need them to be able to turn. Granit has improved this aspect of the game but the other side of it is he will need options to pass besides to the full/wingbacks.

Here’s where the front man and wingers need to be more proactive with the space just in front of the deep midfielders.

Laca does it well coming in or making space to receive the ball better. Auba and Ozil at times hide or shy away from it, expect the player on the ball to find them.

Its the same when we are further up the pitch. There’s an empty quarter (particularly on our right) on the corner of the penalty box we tend not to exploit enough with runs.

When we have someone running into the corner of the box in front of the man on the ball, then it should (unless they are slack) draw their players along creating subsequent space in the middle of the field.

Our right side in particular is unproductive as a consequence of neglect by Mslintat.

Mhkitaryan is about the only option and cannot be more stark in contrast to the opportunities that are being generated on the other flank with Iwobi. With Nelson also let out on loan, we have little options and it was compounded yesterday with AMN rested.

If we play Mhkitaryan, he needs someone to support that run into the corner I mentioned by the tip of the box on the right. I feel with Laca you will get that run, less so Auba.

Scwibble
Scwibble

When will you be publishing this book

Tungor_Adams
Tungor_Adams

Only a small team Will suffer from confidence to truly go for all possible trophies. Emery is crystal clear, we go for both. Why X man feels he has to put a different Perspective out there is up to him to answer, possibly mindgaming on a stratospheric lvl.

Santori
Santori

No “By the Numbers” ?

Mustafi –

11 Duels won – Led the team.
7 Aerial duels won – Led the team
5 Clearances – Led the team.
4 Interceptions – Led the team.

…yet some people on AFTV would mention Koscielny as ‘Outstanding’ and choose not conveniently ignore Mustafi’s ‘stats’…then again it is AFTV

I highlight this not to make any claim that he is the best defender (he isn’t) but to expose the enormous bias which continuously get perpetuated with regard the German (much like with Flamini some years back) that gets in the way of more rational analysis of where we truly go wrong.

But hey, some people like to live in their own reality.

Tungor_Adams
Tungor_Adams

Flamini, prior to leaving was a monster. And perfect combo in midfield with Fabregas.

Santori
Santori

Iwobi had a decent performance receiving a whopping 52 passes, and creating chances from out wide time and again.

We have been lob sided for a while now with most productivity coming from left since arguably Alexis was at the club.

Right side is bereft of similar effort without Bellerin or having to commit a wingback in AMN.

We have done nothing to rectify this issue.

Mslintat (who isn’t even the person who transformed Dortmund, it was Zorc), brought low hanging fruit with Mhkitaryan and held us hostage to Raiolla and United when we could have sold Alexis to City (for less but better strategic outcome) and gotten Mahrez before his price was bumped up by a late move from City.

We will need to address this deficiency on the right in the summer. There were and are plenty of options for us in market.

Santori
Santori

…and that’s even if we bring Nelson back into the fold.

Brevity
Brevity

Good grief Santi – leave some space for others on posts!

EZD
EZD

We have a far better chance of finishing top 4 than winning the Europa. Just look at the bookies’ odds – they say we’re nearly three times more likely to finish top 4, even taking into account the fact that we’ve taken control of the tie against Napoli.

People always seem to underestimate how hard it is to win a knockout cup. To state the obvious there’s only one winner!

Obviously we should go for both – we can’t afford to put all our eggs in one basket. But I’m always confused by people saying Europa is our best chance of CL qualification.

EZD
EZD

I’d probably enjoy a Europa league trophy more than a top 4 finish.

But if you made it top 4, with Spurs below us in fifth, that would keep me smiling all summer!

I’d love it if they played Europa in their fancy new stadium.

Longbow
Longbow

Both. Finishing Top 4 and winning the Europa League should be priority. We should knock out Napoli and after that not winning the Europa League would be massive disappointment for me. Considering the fact that we would become favourites after beating Napoli. Our recent games against Chelsea shows that we have the edge over them. If we can’t win the Europa League if we knock out Napoli, we don’t deserve to be in the Champions League.

And to add to that let’s finish above the scum if we can. That will send of message to the rest of the top 4 contenders. Let’s be honest, we’ve had the better of them this season. Should have done the double over Sp*rs and United. Probably should have won at Stamford Bridge as well. Our goal should be to catch up to City and Liverpool next season. That is if we do finish top 4 and win the Europa League. That would be proper progress.