Arsenal’s emphatic win in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa has ensured that we will go straight into the Europa League group stages.
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The Liverpool Echo report that the 4-0 drubbing means that Tim Sherwood’s men miss out on the competition altogether, and Southampton take their place. And while our sixth place finish meant that we had originally qualified for the third qualifying round, the Villains’ defeat also sends us into the next stage, with Ronald Koeman’s side taking our spot in the preliminary phase.
That means that the south coast club’s season will begin in July, and the second leg of their qualifier will take place just a few days before their opening game of the Premier League season. It seems we have dodged a bullet, as our European campaign will only begin in mid-September, which allow us to concentrate on making a solid start in the league before we switch our attention to the competition.
The tournament has received plenty of criticism in the past. Unlike the Champions League, it is much easier for the best sides from the lesser-known leagues in eastern Europe to qualify. That can mean that we could be forced to travel across the continent three days before a domestic game.
However, if we can make a great start in the Premier League, and get into the winning habit, then the group games should only serve as games where we build our confidence further. And any concerns that it may dampen our form elsewhere should look towards our cup treble in 2001, where the UEFA Cup provided the perfect end to a trophy-laden season.