Arsenal finished last season one point off the top four, and with the additions of players such as Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney and Dani Ceballos, there was optimism around the club that this would be the year the Gunners returned to the Champions League.
Unfortunately, the season has been far from what was expected. It is impossible for Arsenal to play in the Champions League next season, and the Gunners are now on the brink of not even playing Europa League football.
However, European football is not yet out of reach for Mikel Arteta’s side. Despite an awful first half of the season, their worst of the 21st century, Arsenal find themselves in an FA Cup final after an extraordinary win against holders Manchester City, and Europa League qualification through the Premier league will go down to the final day.
So how can Arsenal qualify for the Europa League next season?
Win the FA Cup
The simplest route to European football next season is to win the FA Cup final against Chelsea. Arsenal will be hoping to win the competition for the fourth time in just seven years, with the winners gaining automatic qualification to the group stages.
This seemed very improbable a few weeks ago when Arsenal were drawn against Manchester City, however after an excellent counter attacking performance, the Gunners have given themselves another lifeline to European football.
Finish 7th in the Premier League
This is the slightly harder and more improbable route for Arsenal. Whilst Europa League places are normally for the teams who finish 5th and 6th in the league, because Chelsea reached the final, teams can also qualify if they finish 7th. The only time this could happen is if a team in the top 6 wins the FA Cup.
Given Chelsea are guaranteed to finish in the top six, if they win the cup, then 7th in the Premier League will become a Europa League spot. However, the spot does not directly qualify the team to the group stages of the tournament and it places them into the qualifying stages of the Europa League instead.
If Arsenal lost the final, they would need to finish 7th as the Europa League spot for winning the FA Cup does not go to the losers, if the winners are already in a European tournament.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, finishing 7th is not in their hands and will require slip-ups from Wolves or Spurs to finish there. The Gunners will not only need to win their two remaining games, against Aston Villa and Watford, but will require one of the following two scenarios to happen.
- Spurs to lose their final game against Crystal Palace, as they sit five points above Arsenal, although the Gunners have a game in hand.
- Wolves to lose their final game away to Chelsea, and Arsenal to score enough goals in their games to make up the +5 goal difference between the two sides. This is because Wolves sit six points above Arsenal, having played one game more, so it is impossible for the Gunners to better their points tally.
Without doubt, Arsenal’s most likely way to the Europa League next season is by winning the FA Cup, which also puts them directly into the group stages, unlike finishing 7th where they would need to go through qualifying. However, the Premier League has thrown some amazing surprises over the years, so a 7th place finish shouldn’t be ruled out just yet.