The Gunners missed out on Europe this season, even missing out on the maiden edition of the UEFA European Conference League. They were last seen in the UEFA Champions League in 2016/17 too, to put into perspective their struggles in the top flight for the past few seasons.
However, a hard fought away win at West Ham, who fielded a second string side ahead of the second leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final tie against Eintracht Frankfurt, has officially guaranteed them a place in either the first, second or third tier of European competition next season.
The Gunners now sit in fourth place after losing it momentarily to North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who beat Conference League semi-finalists Leicester City earlier in the afternoon.
Mikel Arteta’s side are now going to focus their fight on returning to the Champions League after five seasons. Their rivalry with Spurs, who are also fighting for a return to the Champions League, is sure to spur them on to embrace and surmount the challenge.
West Ham played it safe and fielded a weakened side as they prepared to travel to Germany to take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League. The Hammers, unlike Arsenal, had two opportunities to secure a place in Europe next season, and chose to prioritise the one which could lead to a trophy.
Arsenal went into Sunday’s game after Spurs’ had taken fourth place temporarily by defeating Leicester. The Gunners, however, did not look like a team that wanted to win.
It was a comedy of errors from the Gunners, who were greatly helped by West Ham failing to take their chances. Then Arsenal got a breather with a goal that came against the run of play when Rob Holding, deputising for Ben White, headed in a Bukayo Saka corner in the 39th minute. Fans were especially happy as that was Holding’s first Premier League goal in six years as an Arsenal player.
West Ham got one back when Jarrod Bowen placed a clean finish low and hard to beat Aaron Ramsdale in the Arsenal goal on the stroke of half-time. The Hammers came out in the second half a bit subdued but Arsenal could also not do much to kill the game.
It was another header in the 55th minute from Arsenal’s other centre back in the afternoon, Gabriel Magalhaes that put the North London side ahead. West Ham almost seemed content with the result as they did not push as hard for another goal, possibly with the Europa League at the back of their minds.
Arsenal, meanwhile, continued to make mistakes in front of West Ham’s goal and would count themselves lucky to have left the tie with all three points.