No European trophy in 30+ years.
Two European trophies in our entire existence.
A European pedigree that doesn’t go hand in hand with our domestic stature – nor where we should be aiming for.
Mikel Arteta’s men have begun their Europa League campaign already and with our squad and net spend in recent years, this trophy is something we can realistically look at to add to our trophy cabinet.
Man Utd won it when they were hardly setting the world alight – we should expect a decent tilt at this.
But it is hardly a walk in the park, as we have seen from our recent attempts.
Here’s three things we need to contend with if we want to be duking it out in the final, come 31/05/23
1 – Fixture chaos thanks to the World Cup
It’s something that Mikel has already referred to this season, citing the unknowns when heading into November this season. The winter World Cup will disrupt rhythm, bring players back even more fatigued than usual and herald a higher likelihood of injury.
Qatar’s World Cup promises to push all squads to the limit, but Arteta is right when he refers to a grey area. How will players cope with the extra demand, mid-season? And who will be quicker to recover back to peak fitness?
It’s something that will define any attempts for silverware for every team.
2 – The Dropouts
The Europa League has some big-hitters in the pool already. Real Betis, Roma, Man Utd, Real Sociedad, Lazio, Olympiakos are some of the bigger names. But sides like Freiburg, Fiorentina, Sporting Braga and Bodo/Glimt have all shown they can be forces to reckon with too.
But it’s the Champions League participants who finish 3rd in their respective groups that will need to be taken into account heavily.
Liverpool’s CL group also has Ajax and Rangers. Atletico’s has Bayer Leverkusen and Porto. Barcelona’s has Bayern and Inter. Chelsea’s has Red Bull Salzburg and AC Milan. Real’s group also has Shakhtar and Red Bull Leipzig and City’s group also has Dortmund and Sevilla.
These are teams that will prove to be huge hurdles for us if we want to win the thing. None of them would make us serious underdogs – but all of them pose the capability to out us over two legs.
3 – Injuries
Arteta and Edu recruited well over the summer. Gabriel Jesus has been inspired. Fabio Vieira looks astute and great for the future too and Zinchenko is a winner who adds plenty.
But we are one injury in certain areas away, from being in peril.
An injury to Jesus means the reliance on Eddie is heavy on his shoulders.
An injury to Partey, long term and we need Sambi to step up or we try Ben White in a DM.
An injury to Ramsdale and we have the untested Matt Turner between the sticks, which could be good or bad.
An injury to pivotal, irreplaceable players like Saka and Odegaard and we will also struggle.
Before you say it, yes, most squads around the world are like this, but we have plenty of depth in other areas, but there are players we rely on heavier than others and there are well-covered areas of our squad and others where we rely on versatility to cover.
We’ll need a bit of luck to not only push for our much-wanted top4 spot – but simultaneously to lift a European trophy our club so desperately needs.