Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith thinks Mikel Arteta made it clear last night that he’s prioritising the Europa League.
In his Evening Standard column, Sky Sports pundit Smith said Arteta is gearing up for an assault on European glory.
Winning the Europa League would of course get Arsenal into next season’s Champions League.
With Arsenal six places and eight points behind Chelsea in fourth, their hopes of making into Europe’s top competition via the league look slim.
“Last night’s teamsheet revealed Arsenal’s priorities. For Mikel Arteta, the Europa League is now more important than the Premier League. Taking on the champions-in-waiting is important.
“The Gunners want to be organised and resilient while retaining a threat. They certainly don’t want to suffer a beating. That would damage morale, prove counter‑productive. But I would expect a few changes.
“Arteta picked the best line-up available against Benfica, the same one that scored four against Leeds last Sunday. He will probably shuffle his pack against City, with the Benfica second leg coming up next Thursday.
“That is the reality. League games can be used for developing and improving with the aim of making next season better. But it is all about the Europa League now and trying to add another trophy to last year’s FA Cup.”
Making changes before the visit of the country’s hottest team would be something of a risk for Arteta.
But he may reason that Arsenal would struggle to beat City even at full-strength anyway.
And some players could use the rest ahead of the crucial Europa League return against Benfica.
Smith is one of the sharpest analysts out there when it comes to the goings on at Arsenal and Sunday’s lineup will show whether he’s got this one right too.
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