A season of discontent is over for Arsenal. In the end, we didn’t get to celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day and the Gunners will not be a part of the Europa Conference League. Frankly, it’s the best ending we could have hoped for. While Tottenham has won the right to play Thursday night football in the likes of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, Mikel Arteta will be able to concentrate solely on the Premier League and domestic cup competitions.
In seasons past, qualifying for Europe meant the coveted Champions League or its less prestigious cousin, the Europa League. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that many used to look down on the Europa League. Fans of those in the upper echelon would often chant “Thursday Nights, Channel 5″* to annoy fans of teams playing in the tournament deemed lesser.
*This clip from 2011 is a great example where Arsenal fans are taunting Man City supporters. Oh how times have changed.
If fans thought that the Europa League was inferior, they probably won’t be impressed with UEFA’s new competition for 2021/2022, the Europa Conference League. The tournament was established to restructure the Europa League and to give opportunities to clubs that would struggle to qualify for UEFA’s top two tournaments.
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Without the distraction of the Europa Conference League Mikel Arteta and Arsenal will benefit from full focus on the Premier League
One team from each of Europe’s top five leagues will take part. Two teams from nations ranked six to 15th in UEFA’s coefficient rankings will enter and three teams from clubs ranked 16th to 50th will also partake.
The final is scheduled for May 25th in Albania’s National Arena. In addition to the new trophy, the winning club will automatically qualify for the Europa League.
It seems a bit complicated, but here’s just a partial list of the 184 teams that will participate in the inaugural Europa Conference League:
Santa Clara, Sochi, Vorskla Poltava, Hibernian, Slovacko, AEL Limassol, Aris Thessaloniki, Vojvodina, Cukaricki, Rijeka, Hajduk Split, IF Elfsborg, BK Hacken, Shakhter Karagandy, Tobol, Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino, FCSB, Rakow Czestochowa.
While no disrespect is intended, I had to look up most of these clubs. The Barcelona’s, Liverpool’s and Bayern Munich’s of the football world will not be involved. Not even close.
Like Chelsea did five years ago, Arsenal can take advantage of a season out of Europe. In 2016/17 Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League title after having finished the previous campaign in tenth place, albeit with £120m spent that summer. Arteta knows that a club such as Arsenal needs to build back up in order to qualify for the Champions League once again. This is the best route.
Part of the benefits of playing in Europe is the money that clubs can earn although the amount that the winner of the Europa Conference League will receive is not yet known. There would have been extra matchday revenue and the like, but also travel expenses and player bonuses to factor in. It wouldn’t have accounted for much. Regardless, for a club such as Arsenal, the monetary rewards would not be worth the season-long distractions that the tournament would create.
Another advantage of missing out on the new tournament is that there will be less opportunity for players to get injured. It’s something that, like with all Premier League teams, hampered Arsenal drastically this season. Additionally, it will be a concern next season after the summer’s European Championships will add a strain on squads once more.
Arteta’s aim will now be on the Premier League and finding a way for the Gunners to get back to the top four. That’s the sole target and needs tackling full throttle.
The additional time on the training pitch in between fixtures leaves no room for error. Without the distraction of European travel, the entire Arsenal squad will be able to concentrate on that one goal. Arteta will have nowhere to hide and no further excuses, but it’s a welcome change for the Spaniard.