The 2020/21 Premier League campaign will certainly go down in history for a number of reasons.
The way in which the reigning champions, Liverpool, have dropped so far out of the title race as to almost go off radar, Sheffield United plummeting like a stone after a superb 2019/20…
West Ham being genuine contenders for a finish in the Champions League placings and Arsenal consistently taking a stop forward before making two back...
The narrative has been constantly changing and with the coronavirus protocols to have to deal with on top, the likelihood is that football in England will never experience another nine months like it.
With the final international break of the season now out of the way, it’s full steam ahead for domestic matters, albeit there are teams with a genuine chance of European success before this season is out too.
Mikel Arteta will be disappointed with the showing of his Gunners squad for the most part of the campaign, by and large.
The north Londoners were certainly one of the teams fancied to make a splash after they’d ended last season with an FA Cup win and a decent run in the league, but it’s never really panned out as intended, the odd few decent results notwithstanding.
"We are all on the same page…"
Mikel Arteta knows everyone at Arsenal is 'realistic' but ambitious to win things soon pic.twitter.com/ZQAcXBIvXO
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 1, 2021
There are nine games left of the Premier League season now and Arsenal are nine points adrift of Chelsea in fourth place.
It’s not insurmountable, but you’d have to say it’s a difficult objective and relies on a Blues side unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel dropping points.
Therefore, it’s worth posing the question as to at which point clubs, in this case Arsenal, decide to call time on their domestic efforts and put all of their eggs into the Europa League basket?
The usual way of working for most clubs is to go all out in every competition, and there’s always the cogent argument at the beginning of each season that league placing comes above all else. Any cup success is seen as an added bonus.
And yet, ahead of the Liverpool match this weekend, the Gunners have to ask themselves if the Slavia Prague games over the next fortnight represent a more achievable route to success.
🗣 "For me the priority is Liverpool."
Mikel Arteta when asked about the priority of his upcoming fixtures in the Premier League & Europa League pic.twitter.com/L5At4cpG1t
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) April 1, 2021
Winning the Europa League, a competition in which they’re arguably amongst the strongest of the eight teams left, gives Arteta’s side direct access into next season’s Champions League group stages.
At this point, that is a far more realistic proposition than leapfrogging the likes of Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham, as well as Chelsea – all within the space of the next six weeks.
The Spaniard therefore needs to think very carefully about his next move.
He could afford to give fringe players minutes in the English top-flight in the knowledge that his priorities lay elsewhere, but Arteta then has to deliver in Europe. No excuses.
Or he runs the risk of injuring key staff at the most important juncture of the campaign because of overloading them with too many important fixtures. What happens next could literally make or break Arsenal’s season.