Is it really more important than winning trophies?
Arsene Wenger’s comments raised a few eyebrows last week, as the Frenchman launched a stout defence of his record at Arsenal in the last seven years, a time period that has seen the Gunners fail to win any silverware.
Wenger said: “For me, there are five ‘trophies’ – the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup.
“I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask ‘did you win the League Cup?’, they ask you ‘do you play in the Champions League?’.”
Interesting Wenger opted for that question, considering one of the biggest criticisms aimed at him in recent seasons has been his failure to lure big names to Arsenal, often reluctant to spend big money, alongside his inability to keep hold of the ones he has.
However, Arsenal have always managed to qualify for the Champions League, despite making it difficult for themselves on occasions. Wenger has been a master of ensuring his team finishes in the top four, and does deserve tremendous credit for this.
But whilst this is an achievement, it cannot mask the fact a club of Arsenal’s size and tradition have failed to win a trophy for seven years. Wenger is bound to take this angle in an attempt to cover his back. It is not neccesarily the right attitude to take, and is an opinion that reflects just how much football has changed in recent years.
A poll taken on the Telegraph’s website, showed that 64.2% agree with Wenger’s comments, and would rather qualify for the Champions League than win the FA Cup or League cup. Results I found very surprising.
I suppose the attitude will differ between fans from all clubs. Whilst Chelsea and Manchester United are clubs that qualify for the Champions League season upon season alongside winning trophies, they are fortunate enough to not have to wonder what prizes they would prefer.
Whereas Manchester City have yet to perform well in the Champions League, would more likely long to continue building up their trophy cabinet, which had been bare for so long before consecutive FA Cup and Premier League triumphs.
It is also a question you feel Liverpool fans would find particularly difficult to answer, and their predicament almost sums up the new found attitudes to this question.
Having had such tremendous success in the European Cup, it is a huge part of the clubs tradition and history to be competing in Europe year in year out. Rafael Benitez ensured European qualification in five of his six seasons at Anfield, alongside winning the competition in 2005. An appearance in another final, alongside two semi’s and another quarter final followed, giving Liverpool fans plenty of famous European nights to draw special memories from.
The absence from the competition is painfully felt on Merseyside, and the clubs supporters long for a return to the competition they have been absent from since 2009. Kenny Dalglish was charged with ensuring the clubs return to the competition last season, and despite guiding the club to League Cup success (the club’s first trophy since 2006) he was still sacked at the end of the season for failure to challenge for the coveted top four positions.
The absence from the competition has been felt at Anfield more than any other club, with less money available for transfers, and the world class players the likes of Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres both leaving in search of Champions League football, with both subsequently picking up winners medals in the process. Perhaps Liverpool fans make up a large number of the 62.4%?
Traditionally, football is about winning silverware. Cup final days, trophies and winners medals hold more memories and more meaning than fourth placed finishes, unless you are competing in the latter stages or winning the Champions League.
The money aspect has changed things dramatically, and in many ways Wenger is right with his comments. But it still does not take away from the fact Arsenal, one of the biggest and most famous clubs in Europe has failed to win a trophy for seven years.
You can argue all day about which is more important, and which you would want more for your club. But the truth for Arsenal fans remains the same. Whilst Wenger may refer to fourth placed finishes as ‘trophies’, if the sort of trophies you can actually see remain elusive to Arsenal for much longer, you feel Wenger’s words will no longer wash.
Would you rather your team finished in the top four, or won the FA/League Cup? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood89 and let me know your thoughts.