The Champions League knockout stages kickoff today, PSG play Real Madrid and Sporting play Manchester City. Tomorrow sees RB Salzburg play Bayern and Inter play Liverpool. And hopefully next season, we’ll see Arsenal back in the competition.
If you had told me that the Gunners would have a good chance to get back into the top competition this season, I would have been thrilled. Coming into the campaign, Arsenal felt like somewhere between the 6th to 8th best team in the Premier League. I harbored hope that somehow they could put it all together and make a run - I knew, or hoped, that they had the talent to do so - but the expectation was Europa League then Champions League.
But that has changed. The Gunners are favorites to finish fourth in both 538’s and our friend Scott Willis’ simulations. The Premier League has played out much as it has the past two or three years. Liverpool and Manchester City have separated themselves at the top, and all the other teams expected to compete for a T4 finish have been inconsistent and left the door open. Even Chelsea, who I thought would be in a 1B category behind the two 1A clubs have been underwhelming.
The door is wide open. Arsenal failed to take advantage of the opportunity in front of the club the last few seasons. Hopefully, this year is different. Aidan recently wrote about this and while I don’t go all the way to agreeing that a T4 finish is now the expectation with how the season has shaken out, I would be pretty disappointed if the Gunners don’t manage it. They’ve got a massive opportunity to accelerate the rebuild. They need to take advantage.