Arsenal have been drawn with Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals of the Europa League having progressed through to this stage by winning 3-2 on aggregate against Olympiacos.
When Granada’s name was drawn out first only to be followed by Manchester United, annoyance was the first thought: ‘why does the best team left in the competition get the easiest draw etc etc’.
Arsenal coming out next only to be followed by Slavia Prague tempered those emotions, but they soon turned up to joy as the following rounds were made.
Should the Gunners navigate their way past the Czech outfit they will then face either Dinamo Zagreb or Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the semi-finals.
Arsenal have no excuses not to reach the Europa League final after drawing Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals
No fixture in this competition is easy. Looking across to the other side of the draw, however, and seeing Roma, Ajax and United left to battle it out for a place in the final constitutes what can only be described as the perfect outcome.
Granada would have been the ideal draw for the quarter-finals, but let’s not kid ourselves, the route to the final has been laid for Arsenal and it couldn’t have gone any better. No ifs, buts or maybes.
Reaching Gdansk is now firmly in the hands of Mikel Arteta’s side. They’ve avoided the three best teams remaining.
Reaching the promised land that is the Champions League via the Europa League is exceedingly difficult. The sheer volume of fixtures to play against opposition whose unfamiliarity can add another layer of trouble if matches are prepared for with an over arrogance presents its own issues.
However, the fixtures have been set up very kindly for Arsenal. Not just in the Europa League.
The quarter-final tie with Slavia Prague will be played either side of facing bottom side Sheffield United on home soil, while the semi-final, should Arsenal make it, will be played either side of Newcastle at St James’ Park. Go one further, and the final will be played after the last Premier League fixture of the season at home to Brighton.
Three sides battling relegation whose fates may already be determined by that stage.
There are absolutely no excuses not to be playing in Poland for a shot at Champions League football on 26 May.