Arsenal stand joint top in the premier league, having only lost one match (against title holders Chelsea) in the last 10 games. While they have been sluggish at times, against the likes of Watford, it is a testament to Arsene Wenger’s new counter attacking philosophy and talented team, that they have managed to win so many games on the trot. Even against Watford, where the team looked tired for much of the game, they pulled through with an emphatic 3-0 victory and took all three points deservedly. Getting results even when playing badly and facing top tier teams have been the Achilles heel(s) for the Gunners in the last decade, but, now, these problems are, mostly, gone.
However, in the Champions league, the story is completely different. Arsenal have lost three out of four games and to mostly average opposition (Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb), and although they hypothetically could get through to the finals, it is doubtful that they will. A series of unconvincing and, in some cases, frankly abysmal performances against teams who’s quality is many levels below that of Arsenal’s undeniable talent, shows that Arsenal will continue to struggle this year in the Champions League.
BUT this is a good thing. Arsenal want to win trophies. Realistically Arsene Wenger’s men cannot win Europe’s elite competition, however it is feasible that they could come 1st in the domestic league. Therefore, midweek Champions league matches only make the players tired and less prepared for the weekend games. Even players with seemingly inexhaustible stamina like Alexis Sanchez, have been displaying fatigue in the recent weeks and the chance of key players getting injured is ever present (ahem *Hector Bellerin*). Without these midweekly clashes, Arsenal can focus all their attention and stamina towards the most important competition of them all. As well as this, Arsenal’s main opposition, Manchester City, are likely to prioritize the Champions League, making them weaker in England. The reasons shown above will not only boost Arsenal’s chance to end their title-drought, but also maybe prevent so many starting players from getting injured.
Considering the 5-1 slaughter that arsenal suffered in Munich this week, it may seem cowardly and spineless for both fans and players to want to lose in the champions league and that regardless of the circumstances, a team should always play their best, however if arsenal do get knocked out of the Champions league, it is not a major disappointment – there is a silver lining.
The impact of the lack of the Champions League is evident in Manchester United’s resurgence as a top 4 team last season, where the players could focus on the domestic league and as a result had a stellar set of late season performances. While Arsenal have different playing strategies and are arguably better than their Manchester rivals, it is logical to assume that less games to play means more energy for other games.
Exiting the Champions League is not a failure for Arsenal – it is a hidden opportunity.