All hope seemed lost in December, but Arsenal are now back in the race for Champions League football. Big results against Tottenham and Manchester United, and with a little bit of help from teams above slipping up, the Gunners are now in the thick of the battle for top four, with Unai Emery’s side currently sitting in fourth place.
As well as league fortunes changing, Arsenal remain one of the favourites for the Europa League after Emery’s side overturned a 3-1 deficit against Stade Rennais in the first-leg to win 4-3 on aggregate.
The mood in and around the club is as positive as it has been all season, and former Gunners legend Robert Pires has added to the atmosphere by saying his former club can achieve both a top-four finish and the Europa League title.
Speaking to ESPN (via the Metro), Pires said: “I think Unai Emery is a good manager, he’s won some titles with Sevilla, with Paris Saint-Germain. For the end of the season, he has two targets: to reach the top four and – why not? – to win the Europa League competition.”
He continued: “I think they can reach both targets. Of course, it will be very difficult, but the squad is very good, we have good quality. So that’s why Unai Emery, the squad, they are very confident for the two targets: the top four and why not lift the [Europa League] trophy?”
Although the majority of Arsenal fans might not be as confident as Pires, when you step back and look at the big picture there’s a very real chance the Gunners can achieve both European glory and qualification to the Champions League.
Out of the four teams competing for a top-four finish in the Premier League, Arsenal have by far the easiest run-in with no games against the top six and away games against Everton and Wolves the only real standout ties.
Winning the Europa League, though, will be the hardest achievement this season for Emery. Arsenal will face off against Napoli in the quarter-finals of the competition, one of the strongest sides left in the competition and a team that have proven in the past more than capable of beating Arsenal. But, Pires tipping the Gunners to win the competition will certainly fill supporters with hope.
If the Gunners can overcome the Italian side though, a feat that Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have managed to do in Europe this decade, then the north London side would be in a viable position to end the season with their first piece of European silverware this century.
Pires’ words speak to many Arsenal fans at a time in which they need to be confident about the team, and if the Gunners can achieve both domestic and European success come the end of May, Emery would have set the club up nicely for an optimistic 2019/20 season.
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