With a third of the Premier League season in the history books, it is as good a time as any to take stock of what has happened in the first few months of the campaign. One of the form teams at present are Arsenal, who have adjusted to life after Arsene Wenger with relative ease.
Unai Emery took the reins back in June and it is fair to say that he is has settled well in North London, even if there was a shaky start to proceedings. His first two games in charge saw him and his players suffer back-to-back defeats, with some quarters already asking whether he was the right man for the job.
That pair of losses should perhaps come with a very large caveat, as Arsenal came out second best to both Manchester City and Chelsea in the opening fortnight of the season, two of the best teams in the league, if not Europe. However, since that shaky start, it is fair to say that they’ve gone from strength to strength.
They’ve arguably saved their best football for Thursday nights and the continental exploits that go with it. With two games to spare, they already find themselves qualifying from the Europa League group stages and into the round of 32.
And with European football now in the diary for the early part of 2019, the conversation as to whether they can win the competition begins to get louder. Looking at the Europa League odds sees Arsenal currently at second favourites with Paddy Power at a price of 6/1.
The only team deemed with a better chance of success are their crosstown rivals Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri’s men are priced as 4/1 favourites in the same market and they themselves will be confident of winning the competition.
Those odds could change depending on the eight teams that drop out of the Champions League and join the competition once it restarts in February. But even with a couple of additional household names entering the fray, it should not disrupt the market all that much.
Should Arsenal get a favourable draw in the round of 32, then the belief of getting to the final in Baku next May will only increase further and when you consider the man who is now in charge of the club, their place in the showpiece event is almost written in the stars.
That’s because Unai Emery has won the Europa League on three separate occasions. Not only that, but they all came within a three-year streak between 2014 and 2016. He led Sevilla to an unprecedented hat-trick of wins in the competition and is well versed to make it number four this time around.
Whether Arsenal can finish in the top four of the Premier League is something that is up for debate, should they fail to do so, then they will miss out on one route to next season’s Champions League. But with Europa League success offering the same prize, then it could well end up being the path of least resistance.
The early signs under Unai Emery have been impressive and slowly but surely he has won over what is at times a rabid fan base at the Emirates. He has gone a long way to calming any discontent and he could quell it once for all, should he deliver some much-anticipated silverware in the next few months.