It sounds like a rhetorical question to ask, the answer being so obvious. Of course any fan would be concerned with missing out on Champions League football and all the glamour, glory, and, not to mention money, it brings to their club. However Arsenal fans now have to face up to the fact that, missing out on a top four finish may no longer be just a passing concern, but a very real possibility this season.
As every follow of the Premier League knows, since Roman Abramovich rolled into town, the historical big three of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, became ‘the big four’ as Chelsea were thrust into the limelight behind the Russian’s unprecedented spending power. The three traditional power-houses of English football, who were all but guaranteed to finish in the four available Champions League qualifying spots, were now joined by Chelsea. The race for a top four finish in the Premier League now had a ‘big four’ to go with it – a seeming perfect fit, especially for Sky Sports and UEFA, who have somehow managed to now deem a team successful if they finish second, third or even fourth – but that’s another story for another time.
With the fanfare of ‘the big four’ now established, many other foreign investors took note of the Abramovich approach to ‘buying’ glory and became even more interested in investing their wealth into Premier League clubs. This, along with the decline of Liverpool saw other teams eyeing that fourth and final place which was now deemed available for the first time in a long time. At one stage, Aston Villa and Everton looked most likely to break into the top four positions (Everton even managing it once, but failed to qualify for the Champions League proper), only to fade away. Today however, two more teams have become the more serious threat to the ‘big four’s’ monopoly. They come in the shape of Tottenham, who emulated (and indeed bettered by qualifying for the Champions League proper) Everton’s feat and finished in the top four a couple of seasons ago, and Manchester City.
Manchester City have appeared due in no small part to their owners from Dubai who have managed to eclipse the spending power of Chelsea and Abramovich. Nobody in Europe can match what City can spend and this paid off last season when they finally finished in the top four at the expense of Tottenham, even pushing down Arsenal to fourth place in the process. Liverpool have an almighty task to try and compete for a top four finish now, which they have missed out on for two years running.
However it is to Arsenal fans I return, who must now surely realise that they are seen as favourites to do a ‘Liverpool’, and fall out of the top four. They only need to look at the Anfield club, to see the dangers of what can happen, and the battle it will take to secure their place in the top four. The Gunners seem to be in the midst of a transitional stage – their fans at a cross-road, wondering which way they will go. They haven’t won a trophy in 6-years and their star players seem keen to move on. Also, at the time of writing, their new signings for the coming season have been less than inspiring with Wenger seemingly reluctant to spend the money required to purchase a marquee signing.
With Manchester United and Chelsea rarely faltering, Manchester City’s continued spending power, Liverpool’s new investment and Tottenham’s emergence as a serious contender, Arsenal now have five very real threats to contend with if they want to continue to being a fixture in the top four. As Liverpool have found, it is no longer a battle for the title, but a battle to just finish fourth. Are Arsenal fans concerned? They should be.
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