Despite our recent upturn in form, it’s looking increasingly likely that Arsenal will require a minor miracle to secure a place in next season’s Champions League.
Even if Manchester City’s European ban is upheld and fifth in the table is sufficient, the Gunners need to overturn a six-point gap on in-form Manchester United in the space of five games.
Fail in that Atlassian task and our punishment will be another year of Europa League football. So unpopular is the tournament that many, pointing to Chelsea’s domestic success in 2017 and Leicester’s form this season, would prefer us to take a year out from continental pursuits.
Others, being a bit more realistic, point to the financial benefits of participation – no matter how tiddly compared to the Champions League – and the opportunity to secure a first Europea title since 1994.
Mikel Arteta sits firmly in the latter camp. Having watched his side crash out of this year’s competition to Olympiakos before the lockdown, he wants another bite at the cherry.
“This club has to play in Europe,” he said in his pre-Leicester press conference.
“This club has to play in the Champions League. If we don’t have the choice to do that, it’s better to play in the Europa League than not to play in Europe at all. That’s my personal opinion.”
Having projected cautious optimism about Arsenal’s chances of a top four finish during the lockdown, the boss is keenly aware that his side can do little more than take care of their own business and hope for the best.
“It’s clear that it’s not in our hands,” he said. “The only thing we can do is win as many games as possible and see what happens to our opponents. At the moment, it’s not in our hands. If it had been 15 games [left] it would have been much easier but this is the situation we have. We’ll try to the end.”
If there’s any glimmer of hope, it’s that on the final day of the season, Leicester faces Manchester United and Wolves take on Chelsea. Somebody will have to drop points, which could benefit us.
“If we are able to do that [stay in touching distance] we will have done really well to give ourselves a chance. Again, it doesn’t depend on us at the moment.
“The only thing we can control is our performances and the better they are and the better we play, the bigger chance we have to win the game.”