Just as is the case with the Champions League, Arsenal have also never won the Europa League – or indeed the UEFA Cup, its predecessor. The Gunners have, however, finished runners-up in both the Europa League and the UEFA in their time and in this article we’ll explain how and when they narrowly missed out on European glory.
What Is the Closest Arsenal Have Come to Winning the Europa League?
The closest the north London club have been to winning the Europa League was in the 2018/19 season, when they reached the final. The Gunners topped their group, before breezing past BATE Borisov, Rennes, Napoli and Valencia in the knockout stages to reach the final at the Olympic Stadium in Baku. Their opponents in the final were Chelsea, making this only the second all-English Europa League final, and the first between two teams from the same city.
As some 51,370 fans looked on, Unai Emery’s Arsenal and Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea played out a goalless first half, leaving the game very much in the balance. However, only four minutes into the second half, former Gunner Olivier Giroud punished his old club when he opened the scoring with a low header. Pedro then added a second in the 60th minute. Five minutes later, Eden Hazard converted from the spot to compound Arsenal’s misery, although an excellent goal by Alex Iwobi in the 69th minute did provide a small glimmer of hope. This was, unfortunately for the Gunners, merely a consolation, as Hazard scored a fourth, his second goal of the game, securing the Man of the Match award and the Europa League trophy for the Blues.
This remains Arsenal’s only participation in a Europa League final, highlighting their tendency to flatter to deceive in Europe, even in the second-tier competition. Arsenal’s other Europa League seasons consist of two semi-finals and a particularly painful round of 32 exit in the 2019/20 competition, in which they were knocked out by Olympiacos on away goals.
What Is the Closest Arsenal Have Come to Winning the UEFA Cup?
The modern Europa League may have been created in 2009 but the competition actually dates back to 1971 when it began life as the UEFA Cup. It replaced the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which had been a less official tournament that was created to promote international trade fairs. Arsenal had won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in the 1969/70 season, yet never managed to win the UEFA Cup, although they did reach the final of the 1999/2000 campaign.
The final was at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, where 38,919 fans watched Arsenal and their opponents, Galatasaray, play out a 0-0 draw in normal time. Even golden goal extra time, in which a singular goal would end the game, wasn’t enough to separate the two sides. Disaster struck early in the penalty shoot-out for the Gunners, as Davor Suker’s effort struck the post, after Ergun Penbe slotted his penalty past the diving David Seaman to open the scoring. Sukur made no mistake in putting the Turkish giants 2-0 up, before Ray Parlour made it 2-1. Davala made it 3-1, and the Turkish side were poised for victory. Arsenal’s bad luck only continued, as Patrick Vieira’s penalty struck the crossbar, allowing Popescu to net a fourth for Galatasaray and secure the trophy, as they became the first Turkish team to do so.
How Consistently Have Arsenal Qualified for the Europa League?
Arsenal have only qualified for the Europa League on four separate occasions, which were four consecutive seasons between 2017/18 and 2020/21. Before those four seasons, the Gunners had enjoyed an English-record 19 consecutive Champions League qualifications, showing that they had been remarkably consistent in playing at a level above the standard of the Europa League. This therefore makes the north London club’s recent entries into the second-tier competition feel like something of a downgrade, especially since they have been unable to win the competition, which would also allow them to qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal also played in the UEFA Cup across six separate seasons, with their first-ever qualification being in the 1978/79 season, which was followed by back-to-back qualifications in 1981/82 and 1982/83. It was then not until the 1996/97 campaign that they were able to re-qualify, and the Gunners also played in the 1998/99 and 1999/00 iterations of the competition, with the latter culminating in the loss to Galatasaray in the final. Despite finishing as runners-up twice, Arsenal’s Europa League and UEFA Cup history has been characterised by disappointment and underperformance, something the Gunners will be keen to change.
Who Has Been Arsenal’s Top Scorer in the Europa League?
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang top the scoring charts for the Gunners, with 18 and 15 Europa League goals respectively. However, only 13 of Lacazette’s strikes were for Arsenal, whereas Aubameyang scored 14 for the north London giants, with the Frenchman third and the Gabon international sixth in the overall Europa League tally.
How Likely Are Arsenal to Win the Europa League in Future?
On the back of a fifth-place finish last season, the Gunners will compete in the 2022/23 Europa League competition alongside fellow English club Manchester United. Arsenal seem to have progressed under Mikel Arteta, despite missing out on Champions League football, and key players such as Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka have hit top form for the north London club, giving them a real chance of finally lifting the trophy.
However, they face tough competition from Manchester United, who will be keen to get back to winning ways under new boss Erik Ten Hag, who is likely to spend big in the transfer window. They will also have to surpass Jose Mourinho’s Roma, who lifted the Europa Conference League trophy last season and are looking to further build on that success in the coming season. All in all, Arsenal fans will be hoping that 2022/23 will finally be the year they win a European trophy, and although that is somewhat likely, the Gunners have a reputation of underperforming, with many a shock defeat occurring over the years. It could also come down to whether or not they are able to add to their squad in the transfer window, and thus improve in key areas, with signing a top-class centre forward surely the first priority.