Defeat at Everton has raised serious questions over Arsenal’s claims to an 18th straight top-four finish, with the Gunners available to back at odds of 153/100 to finish fifth or lower this term.
Such an eventuality is difficult to imagine, especially given the fantastic start to the campaign the club enjoyed, but missing out on the Champions League for the first time since Arsene Wenger arrived in north London could be exactly what they require as they struggle to end their lengthy wait for a league title.
Liverpool offer the stellar example as to how being relieved of the stresses and strains of playing top level football twice a week, as well as domestic cup competitions, can help a team’s bid for honours, with the Reds – free of continental commitments this term – sitting at the summit of the Premier League with five games to play.
Arsenal’s wafer-thin squad has been pushed to the limit this season, with a lengthy injury list and burn out chief factors behind their drastic loss of form.
Failure to sign a striking alternative to Olivier Giroud is proving as costly as everyone anticipated (aside from Wenger apparently) with the Frenchman too shattered to replicate his early-season exploits in the closing stages of the piece.
Should the Gunners fail to book a place in the Champions League, the money and pulling power to bring a world-class frontman to the Emirates won’t be there, but the necessity for reinforcements won’t be anywhere near as great, with the team afforded ten extra games rest compared to this campaign.
Europa League participation is seen as more of a hindrance and, indeed Liverpool have benefitted immensely from not being involved in it, but Wenger could use the competition as a means to bed the club’s vast quantity of youth prospects, as he used to do with the Capital One Cup.
Missing out on the Champions League won’t be so tough to take if Arsenal ensure they win the FA Cup this season too.
Triumph would mark the end of a nine-year silverware barren spell, while simultaneously affording their many undecorated first-teamers with vital trophy-hoisting experience, which often proves the catalyst for greater achievements further down the line.
Wigan are the next foes to face Wenger’s charges in the semi-final of the competition, with the bookies going a relatively appealing 12/25 about an Arsenal win.