WITH Mikel Arteta highlighting the inconsistencies of his squad after the defeat at Everton, it’s no surprise that Arsenal’s only hope of silverware this season lies in the cups.
Most fans knew by the 73rd minute of the opening fixture at Brentford that the league was beyond them, but after a sticky start, they’ve reasserted themselves in the fight for the final Champions League place. The race for fourth spot is likely to be an arduous affair involving the Gunners, Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester United, the fear remaining they may end the campaign out of the European places altogether for a second successive season.
The bookies have odds on the sides to finish in the Champions League spots, with Arsenal fourth favourites to claim the final berth, currently trading at 6/1 to finish in the top four. Manchester United are 8/11, with both West Ham and Tottenham priced at 3/1 to claim a top-four spot, reports betting aggregator Offers.Bet.
But the danger is finishing the campaign with no European place for next season, a situation that can be resolved by February 27, with the EFL Cup trophy guaranteeing a place in the Europa League play-offs.
Some may see the current season without Europa League football as no great loss, but for a side that was involved in European football for a quarter of a century without a break, it’s further proof of the club’s malaise.
European football is a measure of a club’s success, and while the Europa League is a poor relative of the Champions League – a competition the Gunners haven’t been involved in since 2017 – it’s European football nonetheless.
The Carabao Cup may be seen as the least important of Arsenal’s priorities this season, but Arteta’s side are currently third favourites to win it at 4/1, helped in large part by a home draw against League One side Sunderland in the quarter-finals later this month.
It is, however, more important to the Gunners than it is to Chelsea and Liverpool, and that is a factor that should play to their advantage. Thomas Tuchel’s side are the 9/4 favourites with Liverpool at 10/3, but both have the potential to slip up in tricky last eight games against Brentford and Leicester respectively, with the EFL competition low down on the Blues and the Reds priorities, both sides chasing the title and the Champions League.
The quarter-final line up is completed by Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United – the epitome of a game you want both sides to lose.
Winning the EFL Cup will do two things: placate some of the fans and take pressure off the players for the season run-in. A trophy in the bag and European football guaranteed by the end of February should help the team focus their minds of the chase for fourth spot.
Arsenal’s record in what was originally the League Cup is far from outstanding with two trophy wins in 1987 and 1993. The second of those finals will be remembered for skipper Tony Adams famously dropping Steve Morrow in the post-match celebrations, breaking the arm of the Northern Ireland international who had scored the winner in the 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
The FA Cup has been far more successful, Arsenal winning four of the last eight finals, but they have a tough third round draw at Nottingham Forest. The Championship side have become very hard to beat since Steve Cooper took over and claimed a 4-2 win over Arsenal at the same stage of the competition in 2018, inflicting Arsene Wenger’s only third round exit in the competition.
If you’re convinced the Gunners can keep up their excellent FA Cup record of late, you can get 12/1 on Arteta’s men making it win number five from the last nine competitions; the bookies have installed Manchester City as 10/3 favourites for the competition with Chelsea at 6/1 and Liverpool and Manchester United at 7/1.