Unai Emery will hope to carry his fantastic record in the Europa League over to his Arsenal tenure, with Europe’s second competition representing arguably the north London outfit’s best chance of returning to the Champions League for 2019/20.
The draw took place on Friday and the Gunners have been handed an interesting group; while Qarabag and Vorskla shouldn’t cause them too many problems, Sporting Lisbon are always a decent side. Below, Football FanCast’s expert writers give their verdicts on where Arsenal will finish in Group E.
“Arsenal will be expected to win Group E with relative ease but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Emery is still learning about this team, especially the players on the fringes of it. A few suspect selection calls are likely and I think he’ll use the competition as a chance to experiment anyway, so there may be a few surprise draws instead of wins on the road. Also, Arsenal play Sporting at home just after they host Liverpool and the Portuguese club will be their main competitors for top spot. The need to balance out resources between Europe and the Premier League could see the Gunners slip up.”
“Anything less than the top spot is a failure for Emery in this group. The Europa League is his competition, and his European success definitely will have influenced the Gunners’ decision to hire him. Portuguese football is nowhere near as good as it was ten or even five years ago, so Sporting CP shouldn’t be too much of a test, while the away trip to Qarabag is perhaps the one potential banana skin fixture.”
“Barring a disaster, the Gunners should emerge victorious from Group E without too much trouble. Sporting will put up a good fight, and the away leg will certainly test Emery’s men, but the other opponents – Qarabag of Azerbaijan and Ukrainian side Vorskla – shouldn’t pose the north London outfit too many problems.
Not only will Arsenal be confident of topping this group, but these fixtures should offer Emery a great opportunity to use his squad to its fullest extent. Outings for the likes of Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos are likely.”
“Emery has proven in the past that he is a specialist in this competition, and I would be very surprised if Arsenal don’t finish at the summit of Group E. You would fancy the Gunners to take nine points out of nine at the Emirates Stadium, and while trips to Sporting Lisbon and Qarabag could prove to be tricky – the latter won 3-0 on their own turf in the second leg of their Europa League qualifying tie on Thursday – the former aren’t what they were after a tumultuous summer and shouldn’t be feared.”