5 reasons Arsenal will benefit from not having European football next season

It’ll be a strange feeling for Arsenal fans not seeing their team play midweek along with the other ‘big six’ clubs.

With the Gunners currently occupying ninth in the table, the North London club look set to miss out on all European competition for the first time in 25 years.

It’s not mathematically impossible for eighth-placed Arsenal to turn it around, given that Tottenham and West Ham are just four points ahead with two games to play.

A sixth-placed finish would qualify the Gunners for the Europa League, while seventh would see them enter the newly formed Europa Conference League.

However, would it be beneficial for Arsenal to miss out altogether? What could the Gunners gain from failing to qualify?

Champions League qualification

Ever since the winners of the Europa League were granted Champions League qualification, teams have taken the competition more seriously.

Arsenal are among those to put the extra effort in, reaching the semi-final stage in three of the last four seasons, losing in the final in 2019.

However, teams that miss out on the Europe do tend to do better in the league.

In 2010, Spurs qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 21 years with no continental commitments, while Manchester United went on to finish fourth in the 2014/15 season having missed out on Europe under David Moyes.

Without the distraction of Europa League knockout fixtures, Arsenal could channel their energies into performing well in the run in.

Challenging for the title

This sounds more ridiculous than it is.

In recent years there have been two league winners who weren’t competing in Europe.

While no one will be expecting Arsenal to ‘do a Leicester’, they could look to Chelsea’s successful title challenge in 2017 for inspiration.

The previous season, the Blues slumped to tenth under interim boss Guus Hiddink, but got their act together and won the league by eight points.

Liverpool also took the title down to the wire without any continental distractions in 2014, adding more than twenty points to their tally from the year before.

With the strength in Arsenal’s squad, and a few shred signings, it could be possible.

Weirder things have happened.

A chance to rebuild

Speaking of shrewd signings, Arsenal will do well to use this opportunity to rebuild their misfiring squad.

For Chelsea in 2016, that came in the shape of Antonio Conte and N’Golo Kante, but for Arsenal it could be a bigger job.

The Gunners may hope to keep Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos without the promise of European competition, but most of the work will be in shifting the deadwood.

Arsenal terminated the contracts of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis Papastathopoulos Shkodran Mustafi earlier in the year, and perennial accident-waiting-to-happen David Luiz is already confirmed to be leaving.

Cedric Soares, Sead Kolasinac and Willian would all be lucky to find themselves playing at the Emirates next year, while the club will also have to decide whether Granit Xhaka really is a left-back.

Likewise, Arsenal will have to make decisions on academy graduates Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson, all of whom have seen first-team opportunities dry up.

Extra training sessions

While big name signings may be hard to come by, Mikel Arteta will hope to improve the players he’s already got.

The Spaniard learned his trade under fellow countryman Pep Guardiola, but other than glimpses here and there, it’s failed to pay dividends.

However, according to Robin van Persie, not qualifying for the Europa League could aid Arteta in his quest to replicate Manchester City’s success.

Speaking on BT Sport, Van Persie said: "From one point of view you can say that it's maybe better for Mikel to have extra training sessions to work on the tactics, to work on the fitness, to go another level up which is needed to actually compete at the highest level against the bigger teams.

"So if you ask me, I would say that it's better not to qualify for the Europa League and get those extra sessions in.”

Fewer injuries and less travel

The fixture schedule can be famously brutal when playing in Europe.

When Arsenal made it to the Europa League final in 2019, the team played 58 games, 15 of which were in Europe.

In contrast, Chelsea played 47 in 2017, while Liverpool and Leicester both played just 43 during their respective title challenges.

Arsenal have been largely lucky with injuries this year, losing the second fewest days from player injuries and illnesses, totalling just 354 in March while Liverpool have lost 1029 days.

Nonetheless, injuries have come at crucial times, such as the Europa League semi-final against Villarreal, where Arteta was without five key first-team players.

Next season, with less travel and fewer games, the Arsenal boss will hope to be able to mount a decent challenge in the Premier League, and look for more domestic success.

READ MORE: Meet the last Arsenal XI who failed to qualify for Europe and where they are now

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