When as an Arsenal fan I watch Europa League games, my mind has lots of questions related to the competition which usually helps in passing time because frankly speaking almost every game (7 to be exact) has been boring so far.
Let's discuss those questions related to Arsenal's Europa League campaign.
The first major issue is - should Arsene Wenger now prioritise Europa League for the rest of the season?
A one off season away from Champions League is okay but a club like Arsenal that is self sustaining cannot afford to make this a habit. Qualification money right now does not have the value it used to have few years back but major sponsorship deals can get affected if Arsenal do not qualify for Europe's premier club competition again.
There are only 2 routes to achieve that - Premier League and Europa League. Chances of finishing in the top 4 appear to be very slim. The Gunners sit in 6th spot 8 points behind 4th placed Chelsea and with 11 games to go the gap looks big enough. Also worth considering the fact that Tottenham sit between Chelsea and Arsenal at 5th.
That leaves Arsene Wenger with only one realistic option of making a comeback to the UEFA Champions League which is to win the Europa League.
The knockout stages of the competition started well as Arsenal beat Östersunds 3-0 in Sweden thanks to goals from Nacho Monreal, Mesut Özil and an own goal from *this is why being a football writer is exciting* Sotirios Papagiannopoulos. Arsenal did not need a spectacular performance to beat them and return leg looks to be just a formality.
The next issue is Alexandre Lacazette's knee injury. The French forward is expected to be out for four to six weeks which means he will miss the return leg of Round of 32 match and also potential Round of 16 games. With Olivier Giroud sold and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup tied for this competition, can Arsenal rely on Danny Welbeck who was not at all impressive last night/ In my opinion Arsenal will be hoping for another easier opponent for this stage.
Another issue in my mind is constant changing of the side for Europa League games. Arsenal should be prioritising this competition and in order to have any hopes of winning this, a settled eleven is needed. Big players like Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan should become used to of playing with the squad that will be put out in Europa League games. There was also a change in centre-back pairing on Thursday as Calum Chambers partnered Shkodran Mustafi. Now will they pair up again for any other game this season? I don't know.
By far the biggest issue is - can Arsenal beat the other strong contenders? On paper Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Marseille, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Olympique Lyonnais and RB Leipzig are very strong teams that Arsenal will have to overcome in order to win the competition. Arsenal have a good enough squad but I have not seen any kind of special performance so far that convinces me but problem is Arsenal didn't need to do too much so far to win games.
So Arsenal should really be making the Europa League their priority for the remainder of the season and play their best team to win the competition and re-enter the Champions League next season.