It’s seen as an act against the crown to hope for a disappointing end as a means to a better life. How dare any Arsenal fan wish for fifth place at the end of the season? They might as well hand in their membership now and join up with some team over in west London; as if that’s supposed to be some kind of insult.
I wouldn’t feel disgusted towards anyone for saying they’d take a year in the Europa League to force change. Of course, you’ll get those who utter the words “be careful what you wish for,” which is laced with patronising tones more than anything else. It’s as if Arsenal supporters aren’t capable of making their minds up for themselves. Well maybe there is a little bit of sense in taking a hit over the short term in order to see greater rewards in the future.
Let’s be honest, how much will really change if Arsenal do qualify for next season’s Champions League? We’re hearing talk of a £70 million raid on the Bundesliga and the everlasting suggestions that Stevan Jovetic will be swapping Florence for north London. Well we’ve heard stories like that before. We heard them in 2008 when Arsene Wenger said he was after “two world class” players. We’ve been promised war chests (an infuriating term used in football) that are unrivalled anywhere in Europe. And yet the story here, and one that isn’t directly mentioned, is the season ticket renewals.
I’m not falling for it. Why after 16 years would Wenger suddenly decide to switch allegiances and join up with a group of clubs he seemed to campaign so strongly against? The board are pushing for Wenger to spend the £70 million currently available to him. Are they really? Champions League football next season will signal more of the same, because quite frankly where is the problem?
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It’s quite plain that the current Arsenal board – and that’s really only the owner of the St Louis Rams – are not interested in making a push for silverware. Whatever has been said in the past about growing organically is fine, but all the components are not in place for the team to grow in such a way. Outside interference yes, but also the lack of drive from within to make changes that are needed.
It’s been easy to pick up on nerves coming to the fore in the past. Last season there was talk about how the club were prepared financially in the event that Champions League football wasn’t attained. A number of factors put those contingency plans back in the vault, but they’ve returned once again this season. The club have been playing with fire for far too long, and making the top four this season will give them an incentive to continue to do so. It’s easy, it’s safe and it ensures Stan Kroenke a profit when he decides to sell up.
The issue about the revenue will come up in discussion amongst supporters. But ask yourself this: why do you care? Why are people so concerned with the finances of a football club? We can pass judgement and form interesting debates – and that stretches across all sports. But why are we weighing up Champions League income and the quest for trophies as if they’re an equal? And that’s the only reason Arsenal make such a song and dance about qualifying for Europe, it’s all about money and has absolutely nothing to do with winning the trophy. Next season, the squad will be built to just about handle the demands for Champions League qualification again, and even if they’re not quite good enough for that, you can put your house on Wenger turning it all around. Remember, last season was solely down to Arsenal winning the race for third place and not another team throwing it away.
This club are coasting and have needed a big shakeup for a long time. Honestly, fans shouldn’t put so much weight into a competition which Arsenal is nowhere near good enough to win. And you can talk about Chelsea and the luck they rode to the final last year, but it really isn’t a comparison when you look at the finer details of both teams.
It’s difficult to see much change in the way Arsenal approach the market and their on-pitch growth should they qualify for Europe next season. New players will come in certainly, but they’re far more likely to be replacements rather than the addition of quality bodies.
This club are far too safe to crumble in the wake of one year out of the Champions League. And please don’t feed the myth that the best players won’t come to a team who aren’t in Europe’s top competition. Luis Suarez, Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani, and Stevan Jovetic, among others, are currently not playing for Champions League teams. Arsenal just happens to be in a situation now where something significant needs to happen to force a swing in attitudes. Finishing outside the top four could bring a lot more good than initially thought.
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