The Arsenal fans in the Transfer Tavern are feeling fairly nonplussed ahead of their clash with Stoke City today due to their side’s failure to mount a genuine challenge for the top-four this season.
Although it’s a bitter pill for our resident Gunners to swallow, Arsenal look set to finish outside the top-four for the second season running after another disappointing campaign for the club. With 8 fixtures left to play this season, Arsenal are a staggering 13 points adrift of their local-rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 4th place, so it’s fair to assume that qualifying for the Champions League via their league position is out of the question this season.
However, there is still hope for the club, as winning the Europa League would guarantee them a place in the knockout round of the Champions League next season. Considering Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying through their league position are dead and buried, they simply must prioritise their Europa League bid during the final few weeks of the season above everything else.
With that to consider, Wenger must make a bold decision to leave Mesut Ozil (valued at £45 million by Transfermarkt) out of the starting eleven today to ensure he has the best possible chance of being fit for the first-leg of their quarter-final clash against CSKA Moscow on Thursday evening.
The German international is by far Arsenal’s most influential attacking player, so it would be nonsensical to start him in what is effectively a dead-rubber match for the club. Stoke are in the midst of a relegation scrap and they will come out all guns blazing in search of three valuable points against The Gunners, but Arsenal should have more than enough quality in their team even without Ozil to get the better of the travelling Potters.
In order to achieve your objectives its important to remain pragmatic and willing to compromise when necessary, and that’s exactly what Wenger must do this afternoon by dropping Ozil to the bench ahead of their pivotal European tie.