Europa League: Can Arsenal Win It?

The Europa League returned with the Round of 32 completed this week with few surprises.

On Friday morning at UEFA headquarters, the Round of Sixteen draw kept the big guns apart:

Chelsea v Dynamo Kyiv

Frankfurt v Inter

Dinamo Zagreb v Benfica

Napoli v Salzburg

Valencia v Krasnodar

Sevilla v Slavia Praha

Arsenal v Rennes

Zenit v Villarreal

Inexplicably given their woes, Chelsea are favourites to win the Europa League with the bookmakers. Napoli, Arsenal and Sevilla lag behind Maurizio Sarri’s collapsing team; click here to learn more about the odds being offered.

It may, of course, not be Maurizio Sarri who leads Chelsea into the last sixteen and beyond. Reports earlier this week claimed the Italian faced the sack when they suffer their inevitable defeat against Manchester City at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final.

Disturbingly for Sarri, the pattern of Chelsea’s domestic results points to an 8 – 0 thrashing on Sunday which is amusing as hell for us.

Where are the realistic winners coming from?

Napoli

Second in Serie A, Carlo Ancelotti’s men sit 13 points behind Juventus so it’s pretty much business as usual.

Even goals scored and conceded are at similar levels to last season. At the moment, they have five clean sheets in the last seven games.

They fell into the Europa League after finishing behind Paris St-Germain and Liverpool. A 1 – 0 defeat at Anfield in the final match meant Napoli missed out on goals scored which given they only lost one game in the group was tough to take.

In the Round of 32, the Italians beat FC Zurich home and away to record a 5 – 1 aggregate victory.

Can Arsenal beat them?

Over two legs, possibly but much would depend on not losing away from home. Napoli aren’t unbeatable, it’s just that we aren’t that good. Wins over Spurs and Chelsea and a point against Liverpool suggest we can compete at this level in home games, but the away matches point to very different outcomes.

Sevilla

The football romantic in Unai Emery probably welcomes the opportunity to return to Sevilla with Arsenal. Certainly, the two teams are on a par in terms of performances and positions.

The Spaniards are fourth in La Liga and are on a run of three without a win (D1, L2). Those two defeats came at Celta and Villarreal who are 17th and 18th in the table respectively. Unimpressive and part of a run which saw the Andalus side lose six of the last fourteen (W5, D3) in all competitions.

Strong at home, only Getafe and Athletic Bilbao have won at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán this season.

Beat Lazio home and away in the Round of 32 to win 3 – 0 on aggregate having topped their Europa League group. Sevilla lost at Krasnodar and Standard Liege in the group phase and haven’t won away in the league since 29th September 2018.

Can Arsenal beat them?

Of all the fancied teams, Sevilla are the ones I fear least. They are a good team and can’t be underestimated, particularly in light of their wins over Lazio. However, they are the most Arsenal of all teams and more than capable of throwing in a bad performance in the away leg.

Internazionale Milano

Third in Serie A and seven points behind Napoli, the Nerazzurri are not dissimilar to Arsenal. Good at home but capable of throwing in some seriously bad performances on their travels as their defeats at Sassuolo, Atalanta and Torino prove.

Inter finished third in their Champions League group behind Spurs and Barcelona, losing at both without scoring. Failure to beat PSV Eindhoven in the final game meant Spurs went through at their expense. Rapid Vienna proved no obstacle in the Round of 32 as Inter won 5 – 0. They may find Eintracht Frankfurt trickier opponents.

Can Arsenal beat them?

Of course, and we can just as easily lose to Inter as well, more because we are that kind of team than they are.

Valencia / Benfica

I’m going to be honest, I only want us to play these so we can claim some kind of belated revenge. Maybe we could get John Carew to play for Valencia to complete the scene? He’d still give Mustafi the runaround, so maybe not.

Valencia are mid-table in Spain, and I can’t see them being too difficult to dispose of while Benfica were hopeless in the Champions League which serves to underline how difficult it is to take league form too seriously.

However, they knocked out Galatasaray in the Round of 32 so can’t be totally underestimated.

Can Arsenal beat them?

Yes. In my mind, no question. Indeed, I’d go as far as to say we can win both home and away legs.

7 thoughts on “Europa League: Can Arsenal Win It?

  1. A very fair survey of the competition and our chances. We are just so unpredictable at this stage, but I feel there is no team as good as Atletico were last year but a greater number of teams who will be challenging. That’s why the draw has been really excellent for us, since a few of these will be eliminated and we might only face strong opposition from the quarters or even semis on. Every chance if we start to improve our form. As you say, the away matches are the problem.

    Is it better for us to have the home leg first or second? I wonder.

  2. LSG,

    Don’t underestimate Rennes, they have quality players, especially attacking wise. Sarr, Niang(former AC Milan player but has developed properly), BenArfa Clement Grenier are all players who can create. They are shit defensively but will attack and hope to outscore us.

    Sarr and Niang have frightening pace

  3. C,

    Of course they aren’t awful. But I’d rather Rennes than any other team for the combination of short travel and a weaker team. Krasnodar, Astana, etc… are far away if very weak.

  4. Dalm,

    It may likely but certainly we can. We could have won it last year while facing a stronger team than is in the competition this season, AM. And I think we are a bit better than last season since Aubameyang is available.

Comments are closed.