Should Arsenal really give a sh*t about winning the Europa League?

Europa League Saka Arsenal GFX
The Gunners return to European action on Thursday, but there is an argument to say they should drop out of the competition as soon as possible

Arsenal can take a breather from the trials and tribulations of the Premier League title race this week as they switch their attention to Europe and a meeting with Sporting C.P. on Thursday.

It feels like an age since Mikel Arteta’s side ended their victorious Europa League group-stage campaign with a 1-0 win against FC Zurich back in November.

Since then, the focus has been on the club’s unexpected title bid in the Premier League, one that currently sees the Gunners lead the way by five points over Manchester City following Saturday’s thrilling victory against Bournemouth.

So the return of European football brings new challenges for Arteta, who must now decide how best to balance his squad’s workload with three defining months of a potentially historic campaign remaining.

But is the Europa League worth the risk? Do the potential negatives outweigh the positives for Arsenal this season?

  1. PROS: Kiwior to get much needed game time

    PROS: Kiwior to get much needed game time

    Surely we will get to see Jakub Kiwior in action for the first time on Thursday following his £20 million ($24m) January move from Spezia.

    The centre-back has had to bide his time since his big-money move at the start of the year, with Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba the undoubted first choice pairing at centre-back.

    But both are expected to be rested in Lisbon ahead of Sunday’s trip to Fulham in the Premier League, so Kiwior should get his chance to impress, potentially alongside Rob Holding.

    The last couple of months would have been good for the Poland international in terms of settling in and adjusting to his new surroundings. But he is a footballer, so he will want to play, and as yet he has not even clocked up a single minute in an Arsenal shirt.

    So Thursday and the rest of the Europa League campaign will be a big opportunity for him to impress and stake his claim for next season.

  2. CONS: The injury risk

    CONS: The injury risk

    While Arteta will no doubt shuffle his pack in the Europa League, he will still have to give minutes to his main senior stars, especially if Arsenal go deep into the knockout rounds.

    Even on Thursday, the likes of Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli are expected to feature - and that will understandably leave a lot of fans nervous with so much still at stake in the Premier League.

    During Arsenal’s recent Europa League campaigns, it has always been viewed as the club’s best route back into the Champions League. But given where they are this season, Champions League football already feels all-but secured for next season thanks to their remarkable domestic form since the start of the campaign.

    So in that regard, it does feel like a risk to use players that will be integral to Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League. 

    An injury to Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard or Thomas Partey, for example, would be a hammer blow to the club’s hopes of going on to win the Premier League for the first time since 2004.

  3. PROS: Bringing players in from the cold

    PROS: Bringing players in from the cold

    It’s been clear for some time now that Arteta has his favourites in the squad. That is not to say he treats them better than other players he has at his disposal. It’s just that almost everyone could correctly predict his starting XI for a Premier League match should he have every member of his squad available.

    And a lot of Arsenal’s success this season has been built on that continuity. It has been a major plus for them.

    But on the downside, it will have left some players, like Kieran Tierney for example, feeling slightly unwanted. 

    Not so long ago, Tierney was being tipped as Arsenal’s next captain, but now he has to make do with the odd minute here and there due to the form of Oleksandr Zinchenko.

    The Europa League, then, will give Arteta the chance to give players like Tierney, Kiwior, Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Jorginho and Matt Turner the game time they need to really feel part of the group.

    It will also give Emile Smith Rowe valuable minutes as he continues to step up his workload following his return from injury

    And that could all be crucial not just to the Europa League campaign, but the Premier League as well.

  4. CONS: The fatigue issue
    Getty Images

    CONS: The fatigue issue

    Since November, Arsenal have basically only had to concentrate on the Premier League.

    There has been the odd cup game, but early exits in both domestic competitions ensured fixture congestion was not really ever an issue.

    Should Arsenal go deep into the Europa League, however, that will change and fatigue within his squad will become a problem that Arteta has to deal with.

    It’s not just the extra games, but the travel as well. The combination of both will put a strain on the squad that it hasn’t really had to deal with so far this season.

  5. PROS: A chance to end Arsenal’s European drought 

    PROS: A chance to end Arsenal’s European drought 

    It’s been 19 years since Arsenal last won the Premier League. But it’s been 31 since they last got their hands on a European trophy.

    You have to go all the way back to 1994 and that famous victory against Parma in the Cup Winners Cup to find the last time the Gunners claimed some silverware on the continent.

    They have gone close since then, losing finals in the UEFA Cup, the Cup Winners Cup, the Champions League and most recently the Europa League when they were painfully beaten by Chelsea in Baku in 2019. But a trophy still eludes them.

    For a club the size and standing of Arsenal in the European game, that is not good enough, and given the way they are playing this season, they would have a real chance of going on and winning the Europa League if they take it seriously over the next few months.



    Arsenal are not in a position to just throw away the chance of success in the Europa League. There is still far too much time left in the season to even consider doing something like that.

    Arteta will make changes, as he always does, but he will do it with the belief that the team he picks will be good enough to see Arsenal progress.

    It’s been far too long since the Gunners last got their hands on a European trophy. It’s embarrassing really that they haven't added one to their honours list since that memorable night against Parma in Copenhagen in 1994.

    And whilst the Europa League may not be as illustrious as its big brother, it is still a trophy worth winning, and it’s a competition that Arsenal have never won in their long history.

    So should Arsenal be bothered about it this season? Absolutely. Clearly, the Premier League is the big prize, but if Arteta puts all his eggs in that basket with so many games still to play this season, he will open himself up to huge criticism should Arsenal lose out to Man City and then also go out early in the Europa League. He therefore has to take the Europa League seriously.

    And anyway, who is to say that Arsenal can’t get their hands on both trophies by the end of the season? Given the way they are playing at present, that should be something they are targeting.