Aaron Ramsey says the Europa League is Arsenal’s best hope for Champions League football next season, with the club’s league season in tatters at this stage.
Speaking to the press ahead of Arsenal’s match against AC Milan on Thursday, reporters asked the midfielder if winning the Europa League was the best way to get back into Europe’s top tier competition. The 27-year-old was unequivocal in his response.
“Yes,” he replied. “It’s a massive opportunity for us, so that’s something that we’re going to have to be prepared to give absolutely everything for to try and achieve. This game is very important for us and for our season.”
Arsene Wenger had previously stated that he wouldn’t prioritise the Europa League over domestic football. At the time, Arsenal were only five points off fourth place with a match against Tottenham to come.
Ramsey’s direct answer suggests they’re shifting their focus to Europe now. The team are 12 points off the top four, with eight games left, so it makes sense to do so.
Wenger’s team selection at the weekend suggested the same thing. The manager left Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny out of the squad entirely, and put Jack Wilshere on the bench. If Arsenal still had something to play for, I’m not sure he would’ve been quite so cautious.
Focusing on a knockout tournament is always risky, because have one off-day and you’re out. At this point though, Arsenal don’t have much choice.