Amid their domestic woes, should Arsenal go all-in for the Champions League?

By on January 8, 2024

Mikel Arteta Arsenal

Arsenal are out of both domestic cups and their Premier League title bid is under threat of derailing. We look at whether Mikel Arteta should go all out to win the Champions League this season.

After a hugely impressive 2022/23 campaign that saw them go head-to-head with Manchester City for the title, Arsenal headed into the 2023/24 season full of optimism. After pushing Pep Guardiola’s men so close last year, those close to the Gunners felt this was the season they would push on and begin a new era of winning trophies in north London.

However, things haven’t exactly gone to plan at the Emirates Stadium. First, Arsenal crashed out of the Carabao Cup in the fourth round following a poor 3-1 defeat to West Ham. Fans weren’t too worried, as they felt they had bigger competitions to focus on with the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup their main priorities.

Sunday saw Arsenal play their huge FA Cup third round clash with title rivals Liverpool at the Emirates. The Gunners completely dominated the opening forty-five minutes and should have been 3 or 4 goals ahead at the break. However, woeful finishing meant it was still 0-0 at half-time. Arsenal continued to have the better of things in the second half but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. And predictably, it came back to haunt them as Liverpool scored two late goals to progress to the next round 2-0.

It means Arsenal are now out of both domestic cup competitions and just two trophies left to play for. Worryingly for Arteta, his players have also squandered a golden opportunity to put themselves in a strong position for the title. Following an admirable 1-1 draw away to Liverpool, Arsenal sat top of the Premier League table on Christmas Day. With favourable games against West Ham and Fulham up next, the Gunners were well placed to head into the New Year with a lead at the top of the table.

However, despite creating over 30 shots on goal against West Ham at home, they failed to score and slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat. Arsenal then produced arguably their worst performance of the season to blow an early lead at Fulham, going on to lose 2-1 at Craven Cottage on New Year’s Eve. Those results have seen Arsenal slip down to fourth in the Premier League table. They now trail leaders Liverpool by five points, and with Man City set to welcome back Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland from injury, they are expected to get a lot stronger during the second half of the season.

Liverpool are also rejuvenated following their poor form last season and look to be a real threat again, Aston Villa are right in the mix as they sit third after being one of the strongest teams throughout 2023, and fifth placed Tottenham are impressing under Ange Postecoglou. Just six points separates the top five, so it looks like it could be a five horse race for the Premier League this season. Arsenal blew it in a two horse race last season, so it will be even more difficult for them to compete against more than one opposition this time around.

Champions League the priority?

Given their recent domestic woes, it’s led to fans speculating that Arsenal’s best chance of success this season could be the Champions League. After six years in the wilderness, Champions League tickets were in high demand when Arsenal returned to the competition with fans desperate to see then back in the big time. The Gunners eased through their group after finishing top of Group B ahead of PSV Eindhoven, Lens and Sevilla. They were given a favourable draw and should have progressed as group winners, but Arteta’s men still did well to make light work of the opposition in Europe.

They have since been handed another favourable tie after being drawn to face Porto in the last-16. The away leg in Portugal will be tricky but Arsenal will be heavy favourites to reach the quarter finals. They won’t play the two legged tie until late February – early March, which gives Arteta time to get key players fit again, get any January signings embedded into the squad and get his squad firing on all cylinders again. Therefore, Arsenal could be in good shape heading into the latter stages of the Champions League.

Obviously it’s going to be extremely difficult to win Europe’s elite competition. Arsenal will have to beat the likes of Man City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund along the way. However, they seem to save their best form for when they play the bigger clubs, and especially those who don’t sit back and defend deep.

Arsenal’s worst results this season have come against the likes of Fulham, West Ham, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Tottenham – clubs who either sit back with 10 men behind the ball or play deep and hit you on the counter attack. Whereas, they’ve managed to beat Man City with a very impressive win at the Emirates, proving they can beat the best on their day.


Arsenal are currently priced as the joint third favourites with Real Madrid to win the Champions League this season. Bayern Munich are second favourites with Man City backed to retain the title having won the European Cup en route to their historic treble last campaign. So, the Gunners are tipped to go far in the Champions League this season.

PSG, Barcelona and Inter Milan are also expected to be in the mix to win it, with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Dortmund, Napoli, PSV, Lazio, Leipzig, Porto and Real Sociedad considered as the outsiders.

There are lots of very strong teams left in the competition, there is no doubt about it. Beating the likes of Man City and Bayern will be a tall order, but Arsenal also have to see-off Man City during the second half of the season if they want to win the Premier League. They arguably have more chance of doing it over 1 or 2 games in Europe, than 18 in the league.

European football may suit Arsenal more, with the better teams playing a more attacking, open style of football which should give Arteta’s men more room to attack in the final third. If they can safely navigate past Porto and get a decent draw in the quarter finals, they could start to dream of winning their first ever Champions League.