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What Qualifying for the Champions League Would Mean for Arsenal

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What Qualifying for the Champions League Would Mean for Arsenal

Last season was Arsenal’s worst finish in the Premier League since 1995, as eighth place in the Premier League meant that Gooners didn’t hadn’t qualified for European football for the first time at the Emirates Stadium.

Three games into this season, Mikel Arteta looked like a man on the brink as Arsenal sat bottom of the league, having conceded nine and scoring zero. Six months is a long time in football, however, and the Gunners are now the front-runners for the final Champions League place.

How did Arteta’s side get there and what would it mean for Arsenal to regain Champions League football?

Premier League 2021/22 Top Four Finish

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Arsenal to Finish in the Top 4 @ 4/6

The Cultural Reset

Arsenal’s failure to qualify for European competition at the end of last season lifted the pressure of Mikel Arteta’s side. The Spaniard now knew that Arsenal wouldn’t have the congestion of at least six extra games in midweek and would potentially be able to go under the radar and focus on the league.

This tactic was used in the summer transfer market, targeting players not widely known but key to improving Arsenal's deficiencies of the past few seasons.

Ben White was their marquee signing, costing £50 million from Brighton to slot alongside Gabriel, replacing the ever unreliable David Luiz and inconsistent Rob Holding. Hector Bellerin was sent out on loan to Real Betis, meaning a right-back was needed with Takehiro Tomiyasu slotting in after a £16 million move from Bologna.

The most controversial signing that Arsenal made however this summer was that of Aaron Ramsdale, costing Arsenal a considerable fee of £25m for a player who had faced two consecutive Premier League relegations. The gamble has paid off for Gooners as their defence has improved remarkably, keeping as many clean sheets this season as throughout the entirety of last (12).

2021/22 Premier League to Finish Higher Than Odds

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Arsenal to Finish Higher Than Chelsea in the 2021/22 Premier League Season @ 14/1

Youngsters Stepping up to the Plate

Arteta has also focused heavily on the youth coming through at Arsenal who have given a new life and passion, especially to the midfield and attacking options. The two stars of Arsenal’s academy who are currently shining are Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka.

Smith Rowe not only has improved his goal threat for Arsenal, having five more goal involvements so far this season than throughout last, but his role as a team player has flourished. With a pass success rate of 88% and averaging at least one key pass per game, Arteta knows that the Londoner will always be reliable, whether that is from the start or when trying to make an impact off the bench.

Bukayo Saka has also shown this season why he’s not only one of Arsenal’s most exciting players, but one that England will be able to rely on for years to come. Known for his versatility, its Saka’s role on the right this season where Saka has shone at the Emirates. 13 goal involvements in the Premier League this season, including 8 goals has been massive for Arsenal’s upward trajectory, with his 21 shots on target the most for the club and highlighting how he can challenge any goalkeeper.

The Gunners are on the Right Path

A place in the Champions League would be a defining moment in Arsenal’s attempts to get back to past glories. These past glories consisted of fighting with Manchester United year after year for the Premier League title and with Arsenal looking like they’ll finish above United for the past three years, a new Arsenal dominance in this rivalry could be on the cards.

Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjær looked as if they had the team to fight for titles this year, following the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. Their team, however, now lies behind Arsenal despite having played three more and playing more like a group of individuals than a collective.

This was the case for all to see on Saturday, as Ronaldo dragged his team to victory with his hat-trick in a 3-2 win against Spurs. In comparison, Mikel Arteta’s side showed cohesion and unity as a Partey header from a set-piece, something United have only managed to do twice all season. This was followed by a Lacazette penalty as Arteta’s team took all three points against Leicester City.

Arsenal of today are one not just for now but also for the future. The closest to resemble the Arsenal of under Wenger, famous for their invincible season in 2003/04, this team has room for improvement, being the average youngest in the Premier League this season at 24 yrs and 230 days.

Arteta has stated all along that he has a plan. This is to rely on youth, develop them into a team who can play out of the back and control possession. If a striker were to be added in the summer as well as a CDM, could the next part of Arteta’s plan be challenging for a title? One thing is for sure and that is Champions League qualification could be the catalyst for this and the Gooners are well on their way to securing this vital achievement.