The players, fans, and club will all be looking for an important bounce back today versus Portsmouth in the now extremely important FA Cup. Arsenal had their first major setback last week versus Olympiacos when they saw their hopes of reaching a second straight Europa League final crushed a long way away from where they wanted to be.
In the round of 32, Arsenal put on their poorest performance under Mikel Arteta and allowed Olympiacos to overcome the 1-0 deficit they had after losing to Arsenal in the opening leg. It eliminates their clearest path back into the Champions League this year and suggests the Gunners could be looking at another season without the it’s significant financial benefits.
Arteta commented on 3 years without it saying:
“I think the damage caused by the club not being in the Champions League for the third season is really big…Financially the impact is enormous because the structure of this club is built to be in the Champions League and you can sustain that for one year or two, but then after you have to start making decisions. So we will have to make decisions one way or the other depending on the scenario we find ourselves, whether we are in the Champions League, Europa League or nowhere near that.”
It is a worrisome reality that everyone is all too aware is looming over them. This only added to the disappointment of their Europa League campaign but won’t be accepted by fans as the end of the season. Supporters look for any reason they can find to have hope and while Olympiacos was a crushing reminder of how large their rebuild is, fans will turn their attention to winning the FA Cup to get back into the Europa League and be looking at the team to see how they bounce back.
Arteta spoke to the media about the team’s disappointment saying, “We trained today, we were all very down, frustrated and disappointed,” he said. “The first message to them was that I am right behind them, I said ‘thank you for the attitude’ – they tried, tried and tried again and deserved to win. We can fall and we can have disappointments but it is how we react individually and collectively.”
While I have a hard time agreeing with him about this deserving to win given how poor they were on the night, I am in complete agreement with his emphasis on the critical nature of their individual and collective reactions. Arteta will have a big job on his hands to get his players back on track and none bigger than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who appeared to be in a lot of stress after missing a close range shot that would have seen Arsenal progress to the next round.
With plenty of games left to play in the Premier League and no one putting a lockdown hold on the 4th place position, Gunner fans will gladly put their final hopes for the season in a late surge. To give themselves any chance, it will require a great finish to season that still contains a run of four games in which Arsenal will play consecutively against Wolverhampton, Leicester, Tottenham, and Liverpool.
They no doubt will need to take points from that run and to have a shot at that, will need to regain their footing. Starting today, Arteta will look to see how bounces back and looks interested in seeing how far they can go versus any players that seem to have called it a year. The fans won’t have, they will hope the players won’t have, and everyone will be waiting to see how we look against Portsmouth.