18 May 2017

Europa League: It's all ours, whether we want it or not...

So. It comes down to this. Arsenal's annual assault on the run-in, the one that sees us seize something resembling victory from the jaws of imminent defeat, has run ashore on the shoals. Despite having won seven of our last eight, we're still very dependent on help from the likes of Middlesbrough and Watford if we expect to elevate our ambitions beyond the much-maligned Thursday night competition that is the Europa League. That shite-sandwich is already in our hands. Whether we want to be left holding it is another matter. We can't really palm it off on anyone else, so all that's left to do is shove it someone else's face.

Man U are done, at least as far as the Prem is concerned. Mourinho will try desperately to prove that the Europa League is significant. Long may he prosper. After having narrowly escaped Celta Vigo (13th in La Liga), he'll face Ajax (2nd in the Eredivisie). Win or lose, Man U will burnish the Europa League just a bit—and that's something well-worth remembering.

After all, if a glory-hound like Mourinho covets the Europa League title, well, surely there's something in it. The only question is, "should we want Mourinho to win the Europa League?" Whether he wins it or not, there's something to celebrate at our end. More on that later.

We can bypass the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League through one of the following outcomes
  • we defeat Everton and Liverpool lose to or draw with Middlesbrough. 
  • we draw 0-0 or 1-1 and Liverpool lose by three goals or more. 
  • we win and Man City lose by a combined five-goal change in goal-difference. 
In other words, we're all but guaranteed Europa League with all of its attendant play in various undesirable locations. I hear that Russia, Romania, and Turkey are delightful in November and December. For those not in the know, I was being sarcastic. Maybe ironic or even sardonic.

Yes, at some level or another, it might amount to trolling to some degree if we were to go into the Europa League—otherwise known as "Spuropa" or "Spursdays"—and win the damned thing. However, we have to measure what that means ahead of the game. How will players such as Alexis and Mesut feel about staying with Arsenal for Europa League play? How willing are they and the rest of the squad to possibly falter in the Prem again yet again in order to win a Europa League title? Will other top-shelf players be willing to join Arsenal ahead of the 2017-18 season, knowing that they won't be playing in the Champions League or command the weekly wages they expect? It's an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a conundrum.

We play Everton at the same time that Liverool play Middlesbrough and Man City play Watford. There's no way to game the schedule. It's probably safe to say that we can't count on Man City losing in any way, shape, or form. As such, we'll have to hope that we can beat Everton and see Middlesbrough find a point or more at Anfield. If Middlesbrough can't find that point, well, Arsenal will play in the Europa League. Mourinho's Man U are in the final, and, win or lose, that does promote the trophy just a bit. Whether it rises to a level that convinces Alexis and Mesut to stay is an open question. What it means for our ability to keep them and to attract meaingingful reinforcements is another. We'll have to watch the coming weekend's results with bated breath, that's for sure...