On Tuesday night Arsenal beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 at the Emirates and put themselves back in touching distance of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
I, of course, was ecstatic with the win. Especially with the manner in which we won. However, I can’t help but shake this niggling feeling that qualifying for the next round might hamper our season.
Now, here me out.
Earlier in the season, Paul wrote about us potentially sacrificing the Champions League for the greater good. It’s something that I’ve also mentioned.
The chances of us winning the Champions League aren’t great. That’s not me being a pessimist – we have a better chance this season than previously – but the other teams in Europe are just too good.
Look at how easily Bayern destroyed us. Watch Barcelona running rampant over Real Madrid.
I love our current team and truly believe that on our day, with a fully fit squad, we can beat most teams in Europe. However, I just can’t see us winning it.
I could see us trying though. And therein lies the problem.
Piling our best players into more matches when we’re already fighting for the league could only further our injury problems. Then, the chances are we’ll get knocked out and our confidence will plummet again.
Therefore, perhaps it would be more beneficial for us if we didn’t qualify and instead went through to the Europa League (don’t laugh).
The competition would be easier to beat, would take less out of our first team, perhaps even give our younger players a go in a real European competition, and we’d actually have a chance of winning it, giving the boss his first European trophy.
I know most of you will be squawking with laughter at the idea of being in the competition we once mocked That Lot up the Road for consistently being part of, but if we were to miss out on further Champions League matches, would it really be so bad?
To balance the argument, on the other hand, would our players actually give a damn about the Europa League?
There is a chance that we could drop out embarrassingly early against some far off team we’ve never heard of, purely because we either underestimated our opposition, which we’re no stranger to, or just didn’t care enough to pick our feet up and get a win.
In addition, we’ll still be playing a high volume of matches. Although the calibre of team in the competition allows for more squad rotation, players who are already ‘in the red’ still face the very real possibility of injury.
To most teams in the Europa League, the competition is a huge privilege and they won’t take it lightly. If we do fail to qualify for the Champions League knock-out stages and end up in the ‘less significant’ competition, I truly hope we treat it with respect.
No matter how you feel towards the competition, I’m sure we’re all in agreement that we’ll support the team no matter where they end up.
After the initial moaning, of course.