On Tuesday evening, Arsenal travel to Aston Villa. Despite recent poor results in the Premier League, they still have something to play for.
After their heroics in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday evening, Arsenal return to what seems like meaningless Premier League play. Following a draw to Leicester City and defeat in the North London Derby, it seemed as though their targets in the final standings had would be dashed. A surprising win over Liverpool, however, just about keeps those dying embers flickering.
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And so, when the Gunners travel to Aston Villa on Tuesday night, currently sitting in tenth position having slipped behind Burnley, while it may seem like a futile fixture, especially in comparison to the FA Cup, there is still plenty to play for.
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The Champions League places are now mathematically gone. There were, of course, Arsenal’s primary aim at the start of the season and even a faint target upon the season’s restart. However, the Europa League places are still just about up for grabs, and although it is a dastardly competition that infuriates more than it inspires, the finances of the club depend on European football. Like it or not, Arsenal need the Europa League.
Mikel Arteta hinted at as much in his press conference this week. Speaking before the Villa trip, he was asked about the uncertainty of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future. During his response, he commented on the team’s European status:
” There is another one obviously of where we are going to finish and whether we’re going to be playing in Europe or not, which is going to have an impact. Then all these situations with the market, how it’s going to develop.”
In 2018/19, when Arsenal went to the final, they earned £36 million. It is estimated that they will earn £27 million from their Europa League campaign this year, despite crashing out to Olympiakos in the Round of 32. Add in matchday revenue and other income streams that stem from European football, including the repayment of seven ticket stubs that are given to season ticket holders for home games in the FA Cup and European competition, and it is clear to see the financial impact.
Arsenal can still secure qualification for Europe via the FA Cup. Beat Chelsea and they will secure their place in the Europa League. They will not know their FA Cup fate before the close of the season, however, and should they lose in the final, a seventh-placed finish will be enough to secure European football.
Should Arteta lead his team to a victory on Tuesday, they will jump to eighth in the standings, two and three points behind Spurs and Wolves respectively. Leaping over either would be sufficient to secure their place should they then lose the FA Cup final. Spurs play Crystal Palace and would only need a draw given their far superior goal difference. Wolves, meanwhile, would have to lose and drop a five-goal swing in goal difference, though Arsenal have two games to make up the difference — two 2-0 wins coupled with Wolves losing by any scoreline would be enough.
What this means is that Europa League qualification via the Premier League is not over yet. And as long as it is still possible, that means every match matters, including against Aston Villa.