Mikel Arteta has given his opinion on how important the Europa League is for Arsenal this season.
After 25 matches the Gunners currently sit in the bottom half of the Premier League 11 points off the top four places that they would have been targeting at the start of the season.
Qualifying for the Champions League next season is huge for Arteta as he seeks to build his long-term project at the Emirates and with the pathway through the league looking unlikely, it seems as though winning the Europa League is his side’s best bet.
And now the Arsenal boss has himself admitted that without claiming victory in Europe’s second tier competition it is going to be very difficult to get back into the premier one.
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“Well huge,” he said when asked about how important the Europa League was to the team. “Because the club has to be represented in Europe, that’s 100%. And ideally obviously in the Champions League.
“The thing is that the competition in this league now it’s so big that a few teams who took this for granted for many, many years it’s not the case anymore.
“So now the Europa League becomes a huge competition. If you see how the competition has evolved in the last four or five years with the teams involved, you will say that it’s another Champions League competition even if people doesn’t treat it that way.
“For us it’s vital. We want to carry on playing in the competition. It’s a trophy and we’re gonna go for it.”
Arsenal go into the game at 1-1 from the first leg but crucially have an away goal advantage courtesy of Bukayo Saka’s strike in Rome.
Despite the importance of the game to their season and future, the anticipation amongst their support probably isn’t what it would be were they playing in the Champions League.