Arsenal host Newcastle on Saturday as they begin the defence of their FA Cup title.
The importance of securing that trophy can’t be understated. Arsenal yearned for the financial boost, while the presences of Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in north London would be cast in some doubt. Those two points fall under the blanket of being in European competition.
The general slide that’s taken place at Arsenal shows no signs of abating. Arsenal are a Europa League team. You get what you deserve.
Beating Chelsea in the final ensured Arsenal were cast another lifeline to reach the promised land. This squad wouldn’t compete in the latter stages if they were blessed with the honour, but in order to further progressing it’s the next step.
Newcastle travel to the capital on Saturday for an all Premier League affair, a match that should Arsenal win, would put them within five matches of a 15th title. By contrast, there are nine left to go in the Europa League and 21 to play in the top-flight.
This competition can be kind. Routes to the final can be one favourable tie after another, or daunting fixture followed by daunting fixture. Equally, even one of Arsenal’s more simpler routes to the final in 2015 included a trip to Old Trafford, so it’s never smooth sailing.
As unpredictable as the Premier League has been this season, there are still six teams better than Arsenal at this moment in time. The same can be said for the Europa League, and only one team wins that.
Arsenal are in with a chance of all three. Sitting down to analyse each one on the basis of achievability though, history suggests the FA Cup is the most conceivable route. For this team, in the form they’ve shown over the course of the season, not one of the options pose certainties. Heck, by the end of February, Mikel Arteta‘s side could be licking the wounds of a diabolical campaign.
For Saturday, a full strength side isn’t a necessity. Arsenal have enough on the bench to navigate their way past a beleaguered Magpies side. Yet in the context of a season where other issues have taken centre stage, the FA Cup mustn’t be discounted as an afterthought.
While many lay claim to the FA Cup being our competition, it could be turn out to be our only competition.