Arsenal can ​move a step closer to confirming Europe return as Carabao Cup offers best route

Arsenal are currently sitting fourth in the Premier League table.

If this is the case come May 22, 2022 then the Gunners will be back in the Champions League next season and Mikel Arteta may be able to look forward to an interesting summer transfer window.

Of course, West Ham United, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all have games in hand due to the ongoing rising Covid-19 cases so they’ll be pushing Arsenal all the way to the end.

But regardless of where the north London outfit sit in the Premier League table, they must not forget they have more than one route to ensure they are back in European competition next season.

Route one is a top-four finish and the Champions League, and whilst the second route may not come with the same reward, it is arguably the most attractive option, especially when taking into consideration that both Manchester clubs have already been knocked out of the Carabao Cup.

As explained by the Premier League, the EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) winners qualify for the play-off stages of UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL).

On Tuesday night the Gunners welcome League One outfit Sunderland to the Emirates Stadium in what for many fans has become a dream Carabao Cup quarter-final tie following comments made by Black Cats manager Lee Johnson ahead of the draw.

“I’d love to have Arsenal away or Tottenham away, or someone like that,” he said. “Then we will wait for the really big guns when it is two legs.”

While some Gunners supporters saw the funny side to Johnson’s comments – especially about drawing the ‘really big guns’ in the semi-final – they were in agreement that being paired with Sunderland would be the ideal tie.

The Carabao Cup trophy (Image: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
The Carabao Cup trophy (Image: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Following the draw that happened on Saturday, October 30 those supporters got their wish.

As a result, it will be the third time in the competition this season that Arsenal will face a side outside of the Premier League, and therefore they will be favourites to reach the semi-final.

With Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool still among the teams left in the competition, there will still be a lot of work for the Gunners to do should they get past Sunderland.

But it’s safe to say the Carabao Cup has taken on added importance.

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With the final taking place in February, there has always been an added incentive for Arsenal to prioritise the Carabao Cup, especially in a season where they’re not in Europe and not necessarily too many experts’ pre-season favourites for a top seven finish in the Premier League.

It remains to be seen where the Gunners are in the Premier League table around Carabao Cup final time, but if they’re involved in the showpiece occasion at Wembley Stadium then it would certainly take some of the pressure off the rest of the campaign if they were to emerge victorious.

The quarter-final draw has been very kind to Arteta and Arsenal as they’re now four wins away from lifting the first trophy of the season and also confirming their return to European football with three months of the campaign still to play.

And there could be more cause for celebration if the Gunners are able to maintain their top-four challenge during the second half of the season.

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