Over the past one and a half decades, there have been three certainties in the Arsenal camp every season, irrespective of anything- finishing above Tottenham, finishing in the top 4 in the PL and the current topic of discussion qualifying for the knock-out stages in the CL. The third certainty, however, has become more of an uncertainty this season.
Arsenal fans wouldn’t remember the last time they faced such a situation in the CL. Entering into Match day 5, Arsenal face a do or die situation against Dinamo Zagreb, which very recently recorded its first Champions League victory in 15 years, against Arsenal. The Gunners followed that up with a shocking 3-2 defeat at home to Olympiacos.
That was when what should have been a not-so-tough task became a daunting one- qualifying for the knock outs. Even a point in the double header against Bayern would have been a bonus, but now that Arsenal have collected 3 out of 6, they have managed to keep themselves in the competition. Olympiacos however refused to provide any breathing space for Arsenal by winning both their games against Zagreb, the second one of it happening on what was a miserable night in Munich for Arsenal.
Now, to qualify for the knock-out stages, Arsenal have to win both their remaining matches against Zagreb and Olympiacos respectively, combined with the Greek club not taking anything away from Munich. If Olympiacos take even a point against Bayern, this game will have turned out to be a dead rubber as far as CL is concerned.
Not only that, the if at all Arsenal manage to win Zagreb and Olympiacos come away with nothing from Allianz Arena, Arsenal should either win at Greece with a minimum margin of 2 goals, or they should score at least 3 away goals if the winning margin is by 1 goal. If the final match ends with a 3-2 scoreline in favour of Arsenal, then who finishes second will come down to goal difference. Such are the odds for Arsenal to qualify.
Considering that Arsenal are pushing for the League title this season, and also taking into account the extent to which the squad has depleted due to injuries, Europa League is the last thing Wenger would want. So finishing 3rd is out of question and finishing 4th is not something that is expected from a side of Arsenal’s calibre. Wenger and his troops would be gunning for 2nd place which also largely hinges upon Bayern winning Olympiacos and Zagreb.
The chances are bleak, but still they can be counted as chances. Wenger might field some of his youngsters as he would look to protect the main players. He wouldn’t want any further setbacks in the squad after a disappointing injury to Francis Coquelin in the weekend. It’s tough to judge what is running in Wenger’s mind, whether he is thinking of sacrificing CL so as to focus more on the Premier League, or whether he will go for it without worrying of what it results in. Only time will tell.
However, as a top Premiership side, they should not sacrifice Champions League because it is the pride of both the club and the league at stake.