After the clean sweep in the six qualifying matches we have had a run of games in the Europa that sees us with two wins, one defeat and two draws.
Which by and large is a bit of a disappointment given that we won all six of the opening group stage games – and that is quite a rare thing to happen (especially since we used the kiddies quite a lot in those games.
As you may recall, if you were paying attention the results ran out as….
- Benfica 1-1 Arsenal
- Arsenal 3-2 Benfica
Olympiacos 1-3 Arsenal
Arsenal 0-1 Olympiacos
Arsenal 1-1 Slavia Praha
…which in essence means pretty much anything could happen.
Although if anyone ever wanted to write a positive headline about Arsenal they could say that Arsenal are undefeated in 10 of their last 11 matches in the Europa League.
But we do have our goal scoring machine for of all the players still involved in the 2020-21 Europa League, only Roma’s Borja Mayoral (9) has been directly involved in more goals in the competition this season than Nicolas Pepe who has come up with four goals and three assists.
That figure comes from the BBC who also tell us that “Arsenal are without a clean sheet in their last seven games in European competition, their longest run without a shutout since September 2017. They last went eight without a clean sheet in Europe in a run of 15 ending in March 2002.”
Of course all runs come to an end, that is the good and the bad thing about them – depending of course on where you start.
Another statement that is doing the rounds is that “Arsenal have been involved in continental competition every year since qualifying for the 1996-97 Uefa Cup” (The Guardian).
Bernd Leno said, “When you think about the future without Arsenal in a European competition, it doesn’t feel right. Our job is to make sure that doesn’t come true. Arsenal belongs to Europe: that’s our target and that’s our job.”
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So it seems as if everyone in the media is getting ready with tomorrow’s headlines about the long run coming to an end, which is the sort of doom and gloom that the media loves.
Of course there is nothing special in all this. After finishing seventh in the Premier League in 2013–14 under David Moyes, Manchester United missed out on European football in 2014–15 for the first time in 25 years, but returned the next season.
In 2016 Liverpool missed out after slipping down the league and failing to win against Sevilla in the Europa League.
As for finishing ninth in the league which looks possible, remember that in the Premier League years Manchester City have twice finished 18th and been relegated, Chelsea finished 10th in 2016, Liverpool finished 8th in 2016, and Tottenham were 11th in 2008.
So if things do go wrong, the key thing is moving forward while ignoring the celebrations in the media.
Just one other thing before we gather up the projected line ups for the game… WhoScored do a “Best Statistical XI” for each Premier League weekend. There is just one Arsenal player in the XI for the past weekend: Lacazette, with a rating of 8.9. Only Pulisic of Chelsea gets a higher rating in this week’s team, with 9.1.
As to who will play, we’ll come back to that in the final pre-match instalment.
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