In each of the past four seasons, irrespective of which manager has been sitting in the Arsenal dugout, the same question has been posed.
Is winning the Europa League now the club’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League? It is not always asked at the same time of the season or at the same stage of the competition but, no matter the circumstances, it will come.
This year it is surely their only hope. They are out of the Carabao Cup, out of the FA Cup and out of the running for the top four: more than ever, it is a case of Europa League or bust for Mikel Arteta’s side.
Arsenal missed a series of chances in the first leg against Benfica, which finished 1-1, and need to maintain their composure. A year ago, against Olympiacos, Arteta’s side shrunk under the pressure of the second leg.
Arteta’s message was blunt: “This is why we are here. When you play in these competitions and these games, it is the pressure that you want. You have to be prepared to do that. If not, you do not belong here.”
Thomas Partey has returned to training but it remains to be seen if he is fit enough to feature in the second leg of their round-of-32 clash this evening. The game will take place in Athens due to current coronavirus travel restrictions.
Arsenal v Benfica, Live, BT Sport 1/VM 2, 5.55
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