Arsenal will be playing European football once again next season despite missing out on a top-four finish during the final week of the 2021/22 campaign.
After failing to qualify for any of the three UEFA club competitions this term – for the first time in more than two decades – the Gunners’ reward for finishing fifth in the Premier League is a place in the Europa League group phase once the 2022/23 campaign gets underway in September.
Having been in the driving seat to qualify for the Champions League prior to last Monday night’s loss against Newcastle United, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta could not hide his disappointment at missing out on fourth to north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season.
“Today, I do not get much, if I’m honest. I’m still in pain. I need the dust to settle, I need to go and get a few days on holiday because I do not think today I ‘ m going to reflect the season the way it is, ” he said after the 5-1 win over Everton. “But at the same time, I’m very grateful for everybody supporting our club, the way they’re giving us confidence, respect and motivation to drive forward because I think they believe in what we’re doing. But when you have it there – I’m a winner and I hate losing and we lost something we could win. That’s why I’m in pain. ”
Going all the way in the Europa League next season will guarantee a return to the Champions League for Arsenal in the 2023/24 campaign and that can help ease the pain for Arteta. Although, much has changed since his side were last in the competition during the 2020/21 season when their run was ended at the semi-final stage by Villarreal – managed by none other than former head coach Unai Emery.
Following the introduction of the Europa Conference League (UECL) – UEFA’s third club tournament – the Europa League underwent major changes for its 51st season. The changes announced by UEFA and introduced at the start of the season are as follows:
‘The group stage has been reduced from 48 to 32 teams – eight groups of four. The eight group winners progress automatically to the round of 16. There will be additional knockout round play-offs prior to the round of 16; these will be between the eight UEFA Europa League group runners-up and the eight third-ranked teams from the UEFA Champions League groups. ‘
These changes can give the Europa League something of a Champions League feel, but only for those who top their group as two extra games – previously the round of 32 stage – are avoided. Arsenal topped their Europa League group for four straight years so can experience the benefits of the competition’s new alterations if they repeat the trick next season.
Furthermore, the Gunners should somehow finish third in their Europa League group that would not mean the end for them in Europe as they – just like Leicester City did this season – would transfer into the Europa Conference League when the competition resumes in the new year.