Arsenal and the Champions League. The marriage between the two was a loyal one which continued from 1999 to 2017. And the one guy who made it happen was none other than the legendary Arsene Wenger.
But the failure to drive the team into Europe’s most elite stage in the 2016/17 season resulted in him not getting the nod ahead of the 18/19 season.
Since then, Arsenal have seen three head coaches (including Freddie Ljungberg’s brief term), but are still in the same position as when Wenger left his post at the end of the 2017/18 campaign.
Even though they came the closest in Unai Emery’s first season in charge, the signs were clear that Arsenal were further away from the most prestigious competition than what they had hoped for.
Chelsea cruised past them in Baku in the 2018 Europa League final, beating their London rivals 4-1 in a convincing manner. Last season’s exit at the round of 32 did not come as a surprise given their awful season in the Premier League, in which they finished a 25-year-low in eighth position.
The form in the Premier League this term has been disappointing for Arsenal fans, who saw their team closer to the relegation zone than they were to the top four places in December.
Despite the fact that the Gunners have looked rejuvenated since Christmas, many Arsenal supporters would believe that the damage has already been done in the league.
On the flipside, the main distraction for the Arsenal faithful in the first half of the season was their performances in the Europa League. Arsenal went through to the round of 32 unbeaten, scoring an astonishing 20 goals and shipping just five.
Ask any Arsenal fan what they would prefer between fighting for a top six finish this season and Europa League glory, and most of them would easily incline towards winning the cup.
The path back to the Champions League is tough, but it is marginally easier to win the Europa League than to fight their way back to the top four.
However, Arsenal’s chances of winning the Europa League are still slim. The likes of Manchester United, Ajax, Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan feature in this season’s knockout stages.
But Arsenal fans would remind themselves of what they achieved last season by defeating the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea to lay their hands on their 14th FA Cup win, in what was their worst season in the Premier League in 25 years!
It will be an extremely hard task for Arsenal to secure Champions League through the league and the Europa League, but if they manage to do it, at least they will be back “where they belong.”