What does the Europa draw mean for Arsenal?

by Bulldog Drummond

Arsenal have been drawn against Rapid Vienna, Molde (not to be confused with Mold which is quite a different place), and Dundalk in the group stage of the Europa League.  Here’s a preliminary look at what these clubs have been up to of late.

Rapid Vienna have been playing regularly since August when they entered the Champions League only to be knocked out by Gent in their second match (having beaten Lokomotiva Zagreb in the first).   That defeat put them in the Europa.

So far they have played three games in the Austrian Bundesliga, winning two and drawing one, and now sit second.  They have won the league twice this century in 2005 and 2008.  However with the arrival of Red Bull Salzburg and their finances the chance of further championships seems to have gone.

Rapid last reached the group stage of the Champions League in 2005–06 but finished last in their group after losing all of their matches against Bayern Munich, Juventus and Club Brugge.

Red Bull Salzburg first appeared in the top rankings of the Austrian league in 2006 when they came second.  Since then they have won the league 11 times, including each of the last seven seasons.  On the four occasions they have not won the league, they came second.  Rapid Vienna have come second in four of the last seven seasons.

We are, in other words, playing the perennial runners-up in a one horse race.  Except after three games this season they are sixth in the table, having won one, drawn one and lost one of their opening games.

Molde is a Norwegian team, and as the Norwegian season runs through the spring, summer and autumn, they have currently played 19 games, winning 11, drawing 1, and sitting fourth in the league 19 points behind the runaway leaders FK Bodø/Glimt.  FK Bodø/Glimt is worth a mention also for have never won the league in Norway before, they are now 18 points clear of their nearest rivals having won 17 of their 19 games, drawing the other two, and indeed having a goal difference of +47 out of 19 games, they are dead certs for this season.

In 2011, former Molde and Manchester United man Ole Gunnar Solskjær became manager and they won their first title, which they kept the following season.  He left the club, went to Cardiff, returned to Molde and then went to Man U.  Molde won the title last season and started out in the 1st qualifying round of the champions League but were knocked out in the 4th (play off) round, and so joined the Europa.

Dundalk is a town on the Irish Sea, just south of the border with N Ireland.  The town’s football team had a long period of decline in the early part of this century, but have revived themselves in recent years.  In 2019 they won a League Cup and League double with four matches to spare, but in 2020 changed managers and appointed Filippo Giovagnoli, who gave them qualification for this Europa League campaign.   This season after 11 games they are 18 points behind the league leaders, Shamrock Rovers, with two games in hand.

The dates to note are

  • 22 October: Group stage, Matchday 1
    29 October: Group stage, Matchday 2
  • 05 November: Group stage, Matchday 3
    26 November: Group stage, Matchday 4
  • 03 December: Group stage, Matchday 5
    10 December: Group stage, Matchday 6
    14 December: Round of 32 draw, Nyon

However there is a problem, because against all the odds Tottenham Hots have also got through to the group stages of the Europa League.

Date Game Res Score Round
17 Sep 2020 Lokomotiv Plovdiv v Tottenham Hotspur W 1-2 Prelim 1
24 Sep 2020 KF Shkëndija v Tottenham Hotspur W 1-3 Prelim 2
01 Oct 2020 Tottenham Hotspur v Maccabi Haifa W 7-2 Prelim 3

This is a problem because of the ancient Europa League rule that two games in the League can’t be played in the same city on the same night.  There were signs that the wise men of Uefa were letting this rule go but we may find that we are getting some odd timetabling if the tiny totts are drawn to play in north London at the same time as us.   Although if the lockdown continues, that probably doesn’t really matter very much.