Granit Xhaka has claimed he is willing to forget winning the Europa League if it means Arsenal finish in the top four of the Premier League, per the London Evening Standard.
The Gunners are in the quarter-finals of the competition and face Napoli on Thursday, protecting a 2-0 lead, while they currently sit fourth in the league.
Arsenal are currently fourth by virtue of goal difference, as they sit level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea, but they do have a game in hand.
Unai Emery’s side are subsequently well-placed to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish but they can also achieve qualification by winning the Europa League.
Arsenal won the first leg 2-0 and must simply avoid defeat in Italy to qualify for the semi-finals. The Gunners will play either Villarreal or Valencia in the last four if they get there.
But Xhaka insists that the club’s focus should actually be on the top four instead of Europe.
He said: “I think we want to stay in the top four — we want to be back in the Champions League.
“For me, the Premier League is first and after if you can go to the final and take the Europa League, of course, it is nice as well, but for us it is the Premier League first.
“We are now in fourth place — two points over [Manchester] United, one game less than Chelsea and one point behind Tottenham — and they play against Manchester City this weekend. This can be a big weekend for us.”
Xhaka might not be an idiot but he’s doing a pretty good impression of one with this.
Arsenal do not have the luxury of picking and choosing how they qualify for the Champions League.
They have a difficult Premier League run-in, which includes away games against Wolves, Leicester City and Burnley. Arsenal’s record away from home this season, as has been well publicised, is woeful.
But in the Europa League, Arsenal have done remarkably well to reach the quarter-finals and are just four games away from qualification to the Champions League.
Picking one over the other – particularly when the choice Xhaka has made is as difficult as it can be – is nonsensical.
Arsenal fans had better hope, ahead of Thursday, that no other players have the same attitude as the Swiss.