Just Another Day After a Europa League Exit
The Europa League draws took place earlier today and the Round of 16 fixtures were released as listed below
- Istanbul Basaksehir vs FC Copenhagen
- Olympiakos vs Wolves
- Rangers vs Bayer Leverkusen
- Wolfsburg vs Shakhtar Donetsk
- Inter Milan vs Getafe
- Sevilla vs Roma
- Frankfurt/Red Bull Salzburg vs Basel
- LASK vs Manchester United
If the Gunners had done what we expected from them in Thursday’s Europa League clash with Olympiakos, it would be an all English affair, with the winner of that fixture facing off against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final in the previous campaign saw them ease past BATE Borisov, Rennes, Napoli and Valencia before that embarrassing defeat to Chelsea in the finals in Baku. They bowed out in the semifinals two seasons ago, after a run that saw them defeat Ostersund, AC Milan and CSKA Moscow before losing to eventual winners, Atletico Madrid, and also denying Arsene Wenger his last hurrah in the club.
Looking at the projections, one expected the trend to be semifinals, finals and you know, but football just has a way of serving you that L. The defeat to Olympiakos in the Europa League still leaves a sour taste in my mouth and I can only imagine how our club captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, feels at the moment,
“I don’t even know. “It can happen but I do not know how I missed this chance.
I was tired, I had some cramps but it is not an excuse.”
The anguish wasn’t felt only by our captain. His teammates and the fans felt a kick in the gut as that turned out to be the last meaningful attack of the game. Yes, we expected to see out the Greek champions because we thought we were a superior side but in the end, teams get judged on their performances on the pitch and Arsenal wasn’t anywhere near good enough against Olympiakos in the Europa League Round of 32 clash, and have been eliminated from the competition.
Where do we go from here? We can start by providing a much improved performance against League One outfit, Portsmouth, at the famous Fratton Park stadium. I would expect Emiliano Martinez to get a run out in goal for the only competition he’d feature this season. I can imagine how it felt for Martinez, featuring in all the Europa League games only to lose his place to the more senior keeper in the knockout phases.
In defense, the likes of Rob Holding and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are due for a game and one wonders if we would catch a glimpse of the new signing from Flamengo, Pablo Mari. He played for the Under-23s in their loss to Chelsea last week and there were loads of good reports, while Hector Bellerin and Dani Ceballos watched from the sidelines. My main concern is the fitness of Skhodran Mustafi that turned out to be a vital cog in Mikel Arteta’s oiled up machine,
“I don’t know [how bad it is]. He said to me ‘I cannot play anymore’. I’m not sure if it was a cramp or a muscle injury. I am sure there will be a few of those [types of injuries] because players were exhausted, they played four times in 11 days and it was physically a very demanding game.”
Following this Europa League exit, the Portsmouth game is of heightened importance, as it offered the Gunners a chance of winning silverware this season, in a competition like the FA Cup, where Arsenal are the record holders with 13 points. We will get more information on the Portsmouth game in the coming days. Even though we don’t like the idea of it but it’s gonna take place on a Monday yet again.
Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter @goonerdaily.
Visit Gooner Daily’s Facebook page.
Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List