This hellish Premier League season has come to a close, and Arsenal finished just outside the top four for the first time in some fans’ lifetime.
While the goal is obviously always the Champions League, and there is nothing like playing at the highest level, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom at the Emirates.
Here are a few reasons, for fans inclined to look at the bright side.
The usual suspects
One major pro is that Arsenal won’t get knocked out by Bayern and Barcelona!
But honestly, getting dusted by those two year in and year out has gotten exhausting and predictable. Arsenal are not on their level yet, and it shows.
Arsenal won their group and STILL drew Bayern for the last 16. The luck of the draw the Gunners get in the FA Cup does not translate to Europe.
Arsenal—at least the current crop of players and manager—are not among the elite group that can compete for the European crown.
What is the point of top four every year if Arsenal don’t even make a good run in the second half of the campaign?
Forget winning it, just a nice run into the later stages would at least give some hope of maybe getting there in the future.
Maybe missing out on the competition will be a shock to the system for Arsenal.
Maybe the higher ups at the club will finally realise that Arsenal are not where they need to be in terms of competing for titles at home and abroad, and spend the money (wisely) to get back on top.
Once this happens, Arsenal can go to Spain and Munich with confidence.
Knocking one of them out would be sweet, sweet poetic justice.
Plot twist, Bayern finish 3rd in their Champions League group and knock Arsenal out in the last 16 of the Europa League.
— Kristian Sturt (@FootieWriter) May 21, 2017
With that being said, there obviously will be new opponents.
European competition is fun in that there are matchups that would not usually happen. Everyone always makes the joke that Arsenal will now have to go play random teams on Thursday nights in places fans have never heard of, but Arsenal already had to do that with Ludogorets in the Champions League.
There are still high level teams in the Europa League, and it will nice to see some new faces.
There could be some fun away trips for fans. Ajax, Roma, Copenhagen, and Zenit are just a few names from the past year’s competition that would be a nice short holiday. Not exactly the glamour of facing Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern and the rest.
But new blood might not be the worst thing.
With the decreased level of competition and Thursday games, Arsenal will have to rotate the squad. This could give valuable playing time to players like Iwobi, who has found time on the pitch hard to come by this season.
For the first time in a while, Arsenal have the squad depth to deal with a competition like the Europa League.
Playing in those Thursday games have sunk some teams. Everton come to mind. But Arsenal over the last couple of years have quietly amassed depth enough to handle it.
Players like the aforementioned Iwobi, Lucas Perez (if he stays), Gibbs, Giroud, etc. have found starts few and far between. These players are not your typical squad players; Giroud starts for France for goodness’s sake.
And this is not considering the players Arsenal will add in the summer.
Arsenal will be able to rotate them in to keep a Premier League title challenge afoot, while also challenging for a European trophy.
The Gunners might slip up and actually win it
Arsenal in their current form are not able to win the Champions League. But the Europa League title is definitely an achievable goal. While it is not the first one on fan’s mind, it is still a European trophy.
And who doesn’t like winning big shiny things?
With the squad depth and quality of players, Arsenal have to be considered one of—if not THE—favourites to come home with the cup.
A European trophy could be just what Arsenal need to re-energise the fan base and provide optimism for the future.
This is assuming that Arsene decides to actually go for it.
He could take the option that some teams have chosen in the past. He could go for a youth movement, treating it like the Football League Cup.
This is a gamble; if he goes this route, then fans will expect nothing less than a league title challenge.
A REAL one.
The worst part
The major downside is in recruitment.
With so many players out of contract next summer, it will be harder to keep the higher profile ones (especially players that love golden retrievers) who feel as if they deserve Champions League football.
Maybe if they had played better they would have it, but that is a debate for another day.
If these players decide to go, it will be harder to replace them with players of the same quality without being able to offer immediate Champions League football. This has always been the theory, but Manchester United in this past summer offers hope to Arsenal.
Manchester United were not in the Champions League, and were still able to draw top level players. Pogba and Ibrahimovic decided to go to Manchester, knowing they would not be playing in Europe’s top flight. Pogba talks about coming home, and Zlatan about coming to Mourinho, but in reality, they chose the cash.
In today’s game, money talks.
Players will also know that it likely will not be long (knock on wood) until the Gunners are back to being knocked out by Barcelona with regularity, and if they come to London and play well, they will be right back in it.
Hopefully the club can sell their vision and ambition (assuming they have some; looking at you Stan Kroenke) to players in order to get Arsenal back where they need to be: winning the Premier League and Champions League.