Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Arsenal will fight for top four despite Europa League

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has told ESPN FC that Arsenal can secure Champions League qualification without having to rely on Europa League success.

Arsenal go into Thursday’s Europa League round of 32 second-leg against Ostersunds with a 3-0 lead from last week’s meeting in Sweden and a place in the round of 16 virtually assured.

With Arsene Wenger’s team sitting in sixth position in the Premier League, eight points adrift of the top four, winning the Europa League final in Lyon on May 16 would appear to be Arsenal’s most realistic route back into the Champions League.

But Mkhitaryan, who won the Europa League with Manchester United last season, insists that a top four finish is still possible.

“Of course it [Europa League] is very important, but I wouldn’t say we stop ourselves from saying we are going to compete in the top four,” Mkhitaryan said. “We are still in the competition because the English Premier League anything is possible.

“Maybe sometimes, teams can lose two, three times in a row and we win our games so anything is possible. We are trying to win every game in every competition and, of course, we will be glad if we can win the Europa League as well, but if we can be in the top four, it will be even better.”

Arsenal’s prospects of Europa League success appear slimmer than United’s last season due to the depth of quality in this year’s competition. To win the Europa League, Arsenal must overcome the likes of Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli and AC Milan, not to mention Lyon, whose stadium will host the final.

But after winning it with United last season, Mkhitaryan believes that English clubs are now Europa League contenders because they have started to take the competition seriously.

“Yes maybe, especially Arsenal,” he said. “Last season, they couldn’t get their place for Champions League, so they play in the Europa League. We don’t want to repeat last season, so we are trying to fight to get our place in the Champions League.

“Maybe [English clubs take it more seriously] because you can have a place in the Champions League, winning the Europa League – I don’t know, but maybe it’s just a way people want to win trophies.”

Mkhitaryan admits, though, that he is driven by the personal target of winning the Europa League in consecutive seasons with different clubs.

“Yes why not?” he said. “It’s always a pleasure to win trophies and it will be even better to win twice in a row. It’s not easy as you see there are a lot of good teams in this competition; we have to fight in every game, every minute to show up that we have to win that.”

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