Arsenal’s opponents for their 2020/21 UEFA Europa League campaign have finally been announced.
Following Thursday’s final round of qualifiers, Arsenal have been drawn into Group: B.
Arsenal initially looked unlikely to qualify for any European competitions at the tail-end of last season, following a series of unfortunate results, however, Arsenal’s triumph over Chelsea in the FA Cup final saw them secure their spot in the Europa League, which also had the added benefit of pushing North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur drop into the qualifying rounds, ending their qualifying campaign with a win over Israeli side Maccabi Haifa on Thursday.
Arsenal’s opponents, to be played over two ties, home and away will be:
- Rapid Wien of Austria 🇦🇹
- Molde FK of Norway 🇳🇴
- Dundaik FC of Ireland 🇮🇪
Arsenal’s fixture dates are:
- Matchday 1: 22nd October
- Matchday 2: 29th October
- Matchday 3: 5th November
- Matchday 4: 26th November
- Matchday 5: 3rd December
- Matchday 6: 10th December
The fixture order is yet to be announced and the dates are subject to change.
Arsenal endured a disastrous end to their Europa League campaign last season, following an early exit in the Round of 32 as Mikel Arteta’s side bombed out to Greek side Olympiacos.
In previous seasons, Arsenal have had something of a mixed bag exceptionally far in the competition. Before Arsène Wenger joined in October of 1996, Arsenal lost to Borussia Mönchengladbach and were knocked out before the adoption of a group stage format, with Pat Rice taking charge of the match, with Wenger’s to Rice instructions reportedly angering captain Tony Adams.
The following year, Arsenal were knocked out to Greek side PAOK FC on aggregate, despite a Dennis Bergkamp goal to level the tie out, however, PAOK advanced on away goals.
In 2000, Arsenal reached the UEFA Cup final, and lost on penalties to Turkish side Galatasaray. A cruel end to the season for Arsenal and a sobering reminder that Arsenal’s European form needed to improve.
From there, Arsenal were essentially absent from the UEFA Cup (later named the Europa League) as they were constant figures in the UEFA Champions League, however, at the beginning of the 2017/18 season, Arsenal found themselves out of the Champions League for the first time in nearly seventeen years.
Aided by the signings of Sead Kolašinac and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal progressed to the semi-finals of the competition, before losing in a cruel twist of fate to Spanish side and eventual winners, Atlético Madrid.
The following season, following Wenger’s departure, Europa League specialist Unai Emery guided Arsenal masterfully to a Europa League final in Baku, Azerbaijan, however, Arsenal’s poor performance was devastatingly exposed as Eden Hazard and former Gunner Olivier Giroud wreaked havoc on a lacklustre Arsenal team that slumped to a 4-1 defeat.
Arsenal will be hoping to improve on last year’s performance, with an average group stage showing, that saw Unai Emery dismissed following a home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt and the aforementioned knock-out blow handed to them by Olympiacos, which also precipitated an outbreak of coronavirus within the Arsenal camp and was the first stone thrown in what would lead to the Premier League shutting down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mikel Arteta’s side will set their sites on winning the competition as the journey to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League is underway.