Arsene Wenger took a good long glance at both the fixture calendar and league table this morning, and concluded from that glance that Arsenal will take a full first team squad to the far northern reaches of Sweden in mid-February, in order to salvage what’s left of an otherwise disappointing season:
”I will play the normal team because it is one of the opportunities we have especially because we don’t play in the FA Cup.”
The Gunners sit in a very lonely, inadequate 6th place in the league, and the odds that they will be able to discover the moderate level of consistency needed to make a push for Champions League qualification are as slim as Jack Wilshere’s ability to reverse hair loss. Which is to say, both the player and the club need to find alternative ways to achieve relative success.
Manchester United, of course, used Europa League success last year to return to the Champions League this season, and while that’s a riskier path back to Europe, Saturday’s loss to Tottenham made it also the more practical one, as Arsenal’s chances of finishing top four are almost gone - and top five is also in doubt - following the dispiriting NLD loss.
So while “should they focus on Europa League or the Premier League” used to be a fun academic exercise, now, a lot more hinges on correctly answering that question than it did a week ago.