17 May Not the end for Gunners
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech insists ending up in next season’s Europa League would not be the end of the world for the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger’s side go into the final day of the Premier League season needing to win at home to Everton and hope Liverpool fail to beat relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield to finish in the top four.
They could also make it in if Manchester City lose at Watford and there is a five-goal swing in the goal difference between the pair.
Realistically, though, Arsenal are set to miss out on Champions League football for the first time since 1998.
Alexis Sanchez struck twice as Wenger’s side beat bottom club Sunderland on Tuesday night to take the race down to the wire.
The three points against the Black Cats also assured Arsenal of a top-five finish, meaning they will at least play in the Europa League next year.
Some supporters are calling for Wenger to leave when his contract expires at the end of the season and the Frenchman has yet to announce whether he will sign a fresh deal or not.
Falling into the Europa League will be seen by those fans, a large number of whom boycotted the Sunderland fixture, as further vindication of their protestations.
Manchester United have reached the final this year and Jose Mourinho has acknowledged he is putting more into beating Ajax in Stockholm next week than in the remaining Premier League fixtures his sixth-placed side face.
And Cech, who won the competition in 2013 while playing for Chelsea, reckons it is a trophy worth winning – especially as the winners now receive a Champions League berth.
“A European trophy is a European trophy,” he said.
“I have to say you want to have the Champions League one rather than the Europa League one but you can see more and more, big teams are treating the Europa League with respect because it is a European trophy.
“Now you can qualify for the Champions League too. I have to say it is a fantastic memory for myself to look at the medal.
“I only played in it once and was fortunate in one go to have won it. But obviously I would rather be in the Champions League, that’s for sure. Let’s see what will happen.”
Cech, who also won the Champions League as well as four Premier League titles and four FA Cups during his time at Stamford Bridge, knows Arsenal must stick to the task at hand on Sunday and see off Everton before concerning themselves with results elsewhere.
“We have a difficult game, let’s not forget this first,” he added.
“We will concentrate on our game and there is only one thing we can do which is to win and then hope the other results will go our way, which if they don’t, they don’t. But we need to make sure we win our game.
“I never care about the other results so I am not going to start now.”
Arsenal toiled to victory over Sunderland as David Moyes’ side looked to end a forgettable campaign with a rare bright moment.
Sanchez finally broke down their resistance as he tapped home Mesut Ozil’s cross before heading home from close range with nine minutes left.
Cech’s counterpart Jordan Pickford was outstanding in goal for the visitors and the 23-year-old, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal, felt the whole team put in a solid performance.
“It was always going to be tough to come down here,” he said
“We got ourselves together and for 70 minutes I thought we were a top team. You just can’t let them off the hook.
“I did alright and made some good saves so I’m pleased with my performance. We were in most of the game until the first goal went in and then they turned the heat up – but we had a right go and the attitude was there again so we can’t complain about that.”