For the first time in Arsene Wenger’s 20-year reign at Arsenal, the club failed to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. That has been mixed with the fact that the Frenchman was rewarded for underachievement with a fresh two-year contract to infuriate a large section of the club’s fanbase.
The failure to address long-term problems with his squad was evident this summer, and just Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolašinac were added to the playing staff. Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was one of a number of first-teamers to have his contract running out, and the Englishman joined rivals Liverpool in his quest to finally build on the vast potential that he possesses.
Wenger did manage to keep hold of Alexis Sanchez, however, despite the Chilean indicating that he wanted to move to Manchester City. The 29-year-old is almost certain to leave at the end of the season but, along with Mesut Ozil, he can offer genuine quality in attack whilst he remains with the north Londoners.
The one question that remains is how seriously Wenger will take the Europa League. Manchester United and Jose Mourinho showed last season how to tackle the competition; winning the final in Stockholm after naming a strong line-up in every round. That undoubtedly affected their domestic results, though, as they finished sixth.
Given their poor start in the league, with two defeats already, Arsenal’s best chance of an immediate return to the top-table of European football could well lie in winning the Europa League. Indeed, in Tipbet’s season bets, the Gunners are second favourites at 7.00 (behind Milan’s 6.50) to win the tournament.
As with any group that this competition could have drawn, the English side are favourites in Group H to advance, with 1. FC Köln, FC BATE Borisov and Red Star Belgrade standing in their way. Anything other than first place would be a disappointment, though even second would see them through to the last-32 stage.
Like their counterparts, Cologne finished fifth in the Bundesliga last season and should not be underestimated; they will likely be the toughest two fixtures that Wenger must navigate in the group stage. They have had a diabolical start to their season, however, and are bottom of the German top-tier having lost their first three matches, scoring just once.
For Thursday’s game at the Emirates Stadium there are 62 interesting odds markets, and it is the home side that are expected to win. Arsenal are 1.45 to kick-off their Europa League campaign with three points, or 1.10 with a Double Chance bet which will pay out as long as they avoid defeat. Koln are 4.75 to come back with a point, or 7.00 to get a surprise win. Correct goalscorer and scoreline markets are also available.