22 May 2017

Do we want Man U to win the Europa League?

Europa League. Thursday nights. Matches in Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, and other hinterlands. We're consigned to it for the 2017-18 campaign, but what do we make of it? There are some who say we should just throw in the towel, treat it like an extended League Cup, and play a weakened side just to get it over with. Who are we at Arsenal to go grubbing around for some second-rate, tin-cup silverware? Then again, maybe there's some silver-lining to be found if we are in fact willing to dig deep enough to find it...

For one, we can finally end our ignominious streak of crashing out of the last 16. No longer will we suffer the humiliations of a 10-2 embarrassment across two legs, or of getting obliterated in the first leg only to muster an inspirational comeback that falls just short on away-goals. Take that, Bayern and Barça and whoever else can be bothered. There's more than one way to skin a cat...or, in this case, to get skinned. We also can set aside the perennial frustration of waiting to win a Champions League qualifier before signing anyone. Mr. Kolašinac, I'm looking at you. Mr. Griezmann, I'm eyeing you up as well. Just sayin'.

Speaking of streaks, we can get a few monkeys off our backs. Here they are:
  • This is the first season since 1994-95 that we didn't finish above Tottenham. 
  • This is the first season since 1995-96 that we finished outside the top-four.
  • 2017-18 will be the first time since 1997-98 that we won't compete in the Champions League.
All good things come to an end, don't they? They do...right? That's what I keep telling myself.

Looking further afield, we can sit back and enjoy Man U's misadventures in the Europa League. To be fair, we owe a significant part of our win over them to Mourinho's focus on winning some kind of silverware, no matter what it is. That's what leads us back to our original question, and it's a dilly of a pickle: do we hope that Ajax win it, highlighting in the process the shite-sandwich that has been Man U's season, or do we hope that Man U win it, burnishing the much-maligned competition we find ourselves thrust into?

In the first case, it would be delectable indeed to see Mourinho finish the season with silverware for the first time since 2013 even as he has dedicated himself to winning this competition through obsessively defensive tactics. 15 draws? 15? That's after having spent £157m on transfer-fees, not to mention the weekly wages to Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Bailly, and Ibrahimovic. Despite all of that spending, Man U could only eke out an appearance in the Europa League final by scoring just seven goals in their last six matches. Cynical football never knew a higher prices. Yes, indeed, the schadenfreude would run deep and wide if Mourinho should somehow fail. And, yes, we would be right to revel in it.

Then again, there's something to consider in Man U perhaps winning the Europa League. After all, if one of England's most-massive clubs is willing to invest such ungodly sums in players' transfer-fees and weekly-wages, not to mention the demands of a manager such as Mourinho, maybe the Europa League's reputation would rise just a little bit, maybe even enough for us to take it more-seriously. After all, it's one thing for the likes of Tottenham to dedicate themselves to winning the Europa League (and failing). It's quite another if the likes of Man U or Chelsea want to do so.

I'm not quite sure where our best interests lie, to be honest. The short-term, spiteful satisfaction of seeing Mourinho fail is hard to resist. However, the longer-term benefits of winning silverware and qualifying for the Champions League is well-worth considering. Could we bully our ways to the top of the Europa League? How much would such a campaign sap our strength in the Prem?

It's these and other questions we'll have time to ponder come summer. Before you go, please do weigh in with your thoughts in the comments-section below. Thanks, as always, for stopping by!