Arsenal have already qualified from Group A of the Europa League and they can be assured of a round of 16 place if they achieve the result against PSV Eindhoven.
Arsenal’s destiny is very much in their own hands as this season’s Europa League group phase nears its conclusion.
Victory over PSV Eindhoven in last week’s rearranged fixture clinched qualification to the knockout rounds for the Gunners, although they have the added incentive of topping Group A following a major rule change since their previous appearance in the competition during the 2020/21 campaign.
In addition to the introduction of the Europa Conference League (UECL) – UEFA’s third club tournament – the Europa League underwent major changes for its 51st season. The key alterations that were announced by UEFA and introduced at the start of last season were as follows:
‘The group stage has been reduced from 48 to 32 teams – eight groups of four. The eight group winners progress automatically to the round of 16. There will be additional knockout round play-offs prior to the round of 16; these will be between the eight UEFA Europa League group runners-up and the eight third-ranked teams from the UEFA Champions League groups.’
In many ways, these changes have given the Europa League something of a Champions League feel. Of course, only for those who top their group as two extra games – previously the round of 32 stage – are avoided and Arsenal are on the verge of experiencing the benefits of the competition’s new alterations having won all their fixtures so far.
With that in mind, the message from Mikel Arteta to his players is quite clear: “This competition is getting harder and harder and I think, as you mentioned, how it looks today and what the possibilities are it looks like the next round is going to be extremely competitive, that’s why finishing first in the group and avoiding another two games is such an important thing for us,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
Whether that happens today or next week remains to be seen and Sportupdatehub has taken a look at what every possible outcome from this evening’s fixture away at PSV Eindhoven will mean for Arsenal as there’s a big chance for Arteta to ensure his side avoid two extra fixtures.
An Arsenal win would put them on 15 points with one game remaining but more importantly, they would be eight points clear of PSV – or FK Bodo/Glimt (if they beat FC Zurich) – so they would top the group and avoid a potential round of 32 clash against Juventus or Barcelona in the new year.
An Arsenal draw is just as effective as a victory as it will also be enough to clinch top spot with a game to spare. The only downside is it would end their 100 percent winning record in the group phase – although a round of 16 place would surely be a welcome consolation prize.
Even if Arsenal are beaten by PSV they will still hold on to top spot in the group, but their lead will be cut from five points to two and they would have to wait until next week on matchday six when they welcome FC Zurich to the Emirates Stadium to secure a place in the last-16.