Will this finally be the year Arsenal win the Europa League?
(Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The Europa League. The joys of playing teams you have to Google before kick off, playing at strange times on a Thursday and then having to play your Premier League game on a Sunday.

However, it is still a European competition, and considering Arsenal had such a poor Premier League season last year, The Gunners should be happy to have any European football at all.

Arsenal only made the Europa League this year due to their FA Cup success last season and they will start their group matches with a trip to Austria to face Rapid Vienna.

Context for Arsenal

Arsenal will also face Irish side Dundalk and Norwegian side Molde in their other group matches. Hopefully, the group will be completed fairly comfortably before the big challenges arrive.

In their three previous campaigns in the Europa League, Arsenal have lost to Atletico Madrid in the semi-final, lost in the final in Baku to Chelsea and last year lost in the Round of 32 to Olympiacos in a really low moment for the club. So, how may they fare this year. 

Who do Arsenal need to wary of?

Realistically, at this stage of the competition, Arsenal will think they are the best team currently in the Europa League.

Sky Bet have Arsenal and Tottenham as joint 7/1 favourites to win the competition. The other strongest teams are AC Milan, Napoli and Leicester City who will all provide Arsenal a tough test and they will be looking to avoid in the early knockout rounds.

The other complication with the Europa League is that the third placed teams in the Champions League drop into the Europa League making the competition much stronger.

This was Arsenal's downfall last year against Olympiacos and three years ago against Atletico Madrid so Arsenal will be hoping there are no major upsets in the Champions League group stages.

Should Arsenal really go for it?

The Europa League brings extra games to an already busy schedule. However, the pros of being in it definitely out way the cons.

The group stage is a great opportunity to give the young players a chance to shine, something that Arsenal have utilised well in their previous campaigns.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles used the Europa League to get a run in the first team a couple of years ago and Bukayo Saka burst into the scene with a brilliant performance against Frankfurt last year and since then he has not looked back.

Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith-Rowe will be two players definitely looking to impress and are ones to watch out for. 

As the competition gets harder Arsenal will bring in more of their first team players making the Premier League season even tougher.

It is vital that Arsenal don't focus purely on one competition as they have a chance of getting into the top four this season anyway.

Unai Emery decided to go all out for the Europa League two years ago which cost Arsenal a top four place and they then lost the final to Chelsea who had already qualified for the Champions League.

Given the choice of top four or Europa League winners though, winning the Europa League is so much better.

It goes without saying that winning the Europa League is a trophy which getting the top four is not.

Arsenal have never won a major European competition only winning the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994 and the Fairs Cup in 1970 so Arsenal fans would love nothing more than to win a European trophy, even if it isn't the main one.

The other advantage of the Europa League over top four is that it gives you a higher seeding for the Champions League, putting you in Pot One as opposed to Pot Two or Three.

This in theory should give you an easier group. However, Arsenal are in a position where to move forward they have to get into the Champions League which is why it is vital they find the right balance of the Europa League and Premier League.

Can Arsenal win it?

Arsenal are a better team than they were last year. They are better coached and have added more quality to last year's squad.

They will be one of the favourites for the Europa League currently and still will be when the Champions League teams are added in. Looking at the Champions League groups, there aren't really any 'groups of death' and there aren't really any of the stronger teams that should fail to get out of their group.

Having said that, Arsenal won't fear playing against anyone anyway having beaten Liverpool and Man City recently.

They will fancy themselves to beat anyone at the Emirates Stadium and their away performances have improved under Mikel Arteta.

Winning the FA Cup last year will also help both Arteta and the squad when it comes to the later rounds of the Europa League and new signing Thomas Partey has already won the competition with Atletico Madrid.

It is a long way away, but Arsenal will be hoping to be in the Europa League final in Gdansk, Poland on the 26th May.

Hopefully by that time fans will be allowed in the ground to watch the game and hopefully Arsenal are able to win their first major European competition and get back into the Champions League.

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