Bernd Leno thinks Arsenal’s Europa League battle can help the team expedite its return to contention.
The Gunners are unlikely to reclaim a Champions League berth via the top four, currently 10 points back of fourth-place Chelsea.
And possible obstacles to winning the Europa League include Inter Milan, Manchester United, Wolves, Sevilla, and Ajax amongst others.
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But Leno says a trophy, whether the FA Cup or UEL, would be huge. But even if the Gunners don’t manage to reach another final, the big moments against top competition will help strengthen their nerve.
“In the Europa League and FA Cup we have so many difficult games, so many big games because we saw last season that in the Europa League quarter-finals and semi-finals you get Champions League teams. They are all playing for the title and the final was Arsenal against Chelsea [last season], so it was a very, very big game.
“We want to have this final again and also in the FA Cup. Everybody told me that the FA Cup final at Wembley is unbelievable with the atmosphere and it is also a trophy, a title and we are looking forward to playing these games. Hopefully we can win a title this season.”
It’s especially true for stars-in-waiting Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, and Bukayo Saka, and follows the same logic as sending Emile Smith-Rowe on loan to Huddersfield Town. Play in important spots for your side, and grow.
Arsenal is in training camp in the Middle East for its winter break, and will return to host Newcastle in the Premier League before beginning the Europa League Round of 32 tie with Olympiacos. Its next FA Cup opponent is Portsmouth on March 2, so it’s reasonable to figure Arsenal will take the next step toward silverware in both competitions.
Leno has been sensational for the Gunners this season, and he wasn’t bad in his first season after arriving from Bayer Leverkusen, either. Even if his top four prediction in December isn’t going according to plan.Follow @NicholasMendola