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October 2016
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We’re gonna lose places in Europe, and it’s all Arsenal’s fault

By Tony Attwood

England close to losing Champions League spot screamed the Telegraph

Why the Premier League is on the brink of losing the fourth Champions League spot – the Daily Mirror added helpfully.

England in danger of losing a Champions League place as UEFA co-efficient continues to slide and Italy catch up said the Mail using more words in one headline than it normally manages to pack into an article.

And just in case you missed it, it then ran another story headed

Premier League clubs’ Champions League places are in danger as Italy and Germany take advantage of our European failings

And then just in case we hadn’t realised it was indeed all Arsenal’s fault

More bad news for Arsenal as England’s fourth Champions League spot at risk

The Standard

Yep, Arsenal’s performance in the Champions League means darkness plunges over the country as we are close (is that a week, a month, a year?) to finding ourselves cut down to three teams in the Champions League.

It was not a story that emerged after the two Manchester clubs lost in Europe, but only after Arsenal lost, and the implication is clear – we know whose fault it is.  Although there is a little justice, the papers suggested, since Arsenal always come fourth and therefore will suffer from their own failings.

Except that actually Arsenal came third last year.

But never mind that’s a detail.  Let’s just have a look and see how close England is to being cut down from four Champions League slots to three.

Most of the papers echoed the Telegraph’s lead on the shock-horror of it all, and even the Guardian which did a much more measured piece said that “Premier League clubs are now nervously looking over their shoulders.”

Really?  Literally?

Well, probably not because the Guardian did have the grace to add that if there were to be any change it would not occur until 2017/18 and even then it “still remains unlikely”

So what’s going on?

England has had four places since 2001-02 in the Champions League, and the fourth place is not granted as a right, but in relation to the effectiveness of the teams from each country in the Champions League.  If England’s teams fail to hit the high spots, as they have done recently, then that fourth place will be awarded elsewhere – and Italy is really the only contender as it is all done mathematically.

So to begin, for this to happen the performance of England’s teams has to drop further and the performance of Italian teams has to rise further – both at the same time – for any change to happen.

And here’s another thing not widely covered in the press and by the increasingly raging fanatics who now seem to populate radio and TV programmes on football.   The numbers that tell us which country gets what number of entrants are given slots comes not just from the Champs League but also from the Europa League – and Uefa measure the last five years.  When all the numbers are put together the top three countries get four entrants into the Champs, and the next three countries get three.

So will we hear Southampton, West Ham, Liverpool and Tottenham being blamed for not pulling their weight in Europe?  Errr…. possibly not.

Having the extra number of teams doesn’t really help get the country’s numbers up, since to work out the position of each country the number of points in the ranking table the country gets, is divided by the number of clubs entered.  Then you have your magic number.

But that’s pretty powerful maths, and in a country where being able to do maths is a sign of nerdishness, and the ability to add 3 and 2 together is laughed at by BT Sport, we’re as good as out already.  For we could be excluded without actually understand why.  But never mind we can always blame Arsenal.

Looking at the matter overall, the failure of most of our clubs in the Europa League is the key issue that has led to England now being third in the table of merit in Europe, when we used to be second. Spain is on top, Germany second, England third, Italy fourth.

And the fact that Spain is on top gives a clue as to how you can make this work in your country’s favour.  Have two teams that not only dominate your league, but also historically gather in so much money from TV and sponsorship that they have much of the nation’s football spending power, and they with gather in point after point in Uefa’s calculation system.   Throw in Atletico Madrid who have been gatecrashing the party of late and there are even more points to be gained.

Of course it is not just having the power positioned within two or three clubs that helps, nor the fact that some clubs (not Chelsea I think, but some) in England don’t really take the Europa very seriously.  But it is the difference in the way that football is played in England that doesn’t help too much.

Increasingly refs have been willing to let things go in England which are penalised in Europe – so it is harder to adjust to European ways.  And of course there are the smaller differences like the abject refusal of the Premier League to allow a multiple ball system so that when a ball goes out, a new one is instantly thrown on.   That might seem tiny, but given the propensity of goalkeepers in over half the teams in the Premier League to waste time at goal kicks you can see that these little details count against English comes when it comes to adjusting.

Once we are in Europe the calculation is simple (although still too much for BT Sport and most newspaper journalists): two points for a win and one point for a draw in the main rounds of each competition, one point and half a point in the qualifying and play off rounds.  There is an extra point per round for reaching the last 16 and thereafter.  Plus a bonus of four points for getting to the group stage of the Champions League (not awarded in the Europa) and again just for the Champs League another four for getting to the last 16.

So you can see that each year Arsenal, without being stellar, has done its stuff, usually contributing 16 or so points towards the cause.  In fact we’ve done more than any other club in England to keep the co-efficient up since 2001/2.

And then, as I said, the numbers are divided by the number of clubs entered.  So West Ham’s contribution this year will have added to the number of clubs (so we divided by more) but not to the number of points – a really negative contribution.  Southampton likewise.

Now if we look at the current standing as it affects England we have

  • England 65.284
  • Italy 61.105
  • Portugal 45.082
  • France 44.916

So clearly we are being chased by Italy, but no one else is close.  Italy however no longer have the dominance of Juventus, Inter and AC Milan, for although the former won the league last season they are currently doing a Chelsea and sit 16th out of 20 in the league.  Inter are top Milan are 12th.

Of course there are some who will say Zagreb or Olympiakos are going to come ahead of Arsenal in the group stages this year – because they like knocking Arsenal, but it still seems unlikely to me, and yet that is the sort of thing that must happen in two or three of the groups for the “losing the fourth place” scenario to begin to be a serious possibility.

What Zagreb did was play their very best in, within a very long unbeaten run, and they beat us.  Their challenges at home are rarer and smaller than the ones Arsenal face in every match, with the wholesale kicking of players that is allowed in the Premier League and a more balanced league.

But let us remember that it is all very well having players a-plenty on the bench but if they don’t get games when we really do need them we are going to be in trouble if they come in totally cold.

So, overall, no it is not likely that England will lose its fourth spot, unless this year and next virtually all the teams fail to make an impact, while the three Italian representatives really steam ahead.  So it is all eyes on Juventus (currently 16th in the Italian League), Roma (currently 3rd)  and Lazio (currently 9th).
Oh yes and Tottenham and Liverpool in the Europa.

18 September 1999: Thierry Henry came on as a sub scored first goal for Arsenal to beat Southampton 1-0. He received the ball from Adams, with his back to goal, 20 yards out, turned and shot.  Henry said, “My goal today was very important for me. I have missed at least 14 or 15 chances for Arsenal and my confidence was low.”  It was Arsenal’s last appearance at the Dell

18 September 2013: Arsenal beat Marseille 2-1 to make it 10 away wins in a row in all competitions – a club record.  Ramsey and Walcott scored in the Champions League campaign in which 3 teams ended up with 12 points.

16 comments to We’re gonna lose places in Europe, and it’s all Arsenal’s fault

  • nicky

    I’ve always held the view that the CL, that is the competition to find the champion football club in Europe, should be restricted to the champion club in each participating country.
    To reduce the entry to 4th place, IMO simply demeans the quality of the competition.
    The answer would be to have the Europa Cup become more prestigious by
    amending qualification to 2nd and 3rd place per country.

  • serge

    The Standard DIDN’T say it was “all Arsenal’s fault” that the fourth place qualifier is in danger. They blamed Liverpool and Man United equally for their performances and went on to say that Arsenal were in danger as we regularly finish fourth, which is probably the truth of it.

  • Pete


    As you will have seen from my comments in other threads, I have been looking into this.

    First point to note is that the coefficients are based on the previous 5 years. Unfortunately, the difference between England and Italy is almost exactly balanced by the fact that England did better than Italy 5 years ago and that will come out for the next calculation. So it is almost a straight race.

    On the other hand, Italy lost one of their three clubs in the play-off (very fortunately, the Germans and Italians drew each other – Leverkusen beat Lazio).

    It is also worth noting that Germany are not that far ahead of England and Italy – and could be overtaken by both.

    Fair comment about the pitiful attitude towards the Europa League costing us.

    But the lack of support by the PL towards the CL representatives doesn’t help at all, with respect to scheduling. If the Chelsea v Arsenal game was on Sunday – which it easily could have been – why can’t BT Sport have their game on a Sunday this weekend? – then Arsenal would certainly have played a stronger team in Zagreb,.

  • Gab

    Arsen wenger is a real flop. And he should leave for good. He is no longer a good manager. Look at the squad very bad squad. He failed to invest that makes him so stupid and useless. Why should he still artea, flamini in the team? Is he GOD? Wenger’s time is over. Let another manger come in.

  • Pete

    Gab – We get a lot of trolling on here, but your comment is one of the stupidest I have read for a long time.

  • esxste

    Congratulations for managing to express your thought process Gab. It’s most insightful to know how the “Wenger Out” brigade manage to come to the conclusion the we need to sack Wenger.

    Thankfully, the powers that be at Arsenal don’t use such simplistic thinking.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I wonder who Arsen is. And Artea.

  • Pat

    Thanks for a measured article as usual, Tony.

    Now I understand what that journalist was getting at who asked Arsene Wenger about English clubs in Europe after our defeat. His answer was, “There’s only been one match.” Very true!

  • nicky

    Off topic but we have news that Ozil may leave Arsenal at the season’s end and move to Turkey.
    Surprise! Surprise! It’s not come from Ozil himself but from his greedy leech of an agent in need of the filthy lucre.
    The sooner we get rid of agents the better.

  • Menace

    GAB – Wenger decides who plays in the team (he is like a God). The referee decides what is right & what is wrong during a match (he is like a God).
    You are unfortunately on the wrong site & need some coaching in spelling, reading & writing. You are lucky not to be shown a red card.

  • proudkev

    John Corss’s book on Arsene Wenger is going to be a good read. It will also finally nail a lot of the lies that have been spread by the media and in particular the small band of WOB’s who piss on their own club.

    I knew we had difficulties obtaining the necessary fianance for the move and to redevlop Highbury but I did not know we were very close to not being able to pay the players in the Invincibles team. John Cross has done what most of the leaches in that occupation fail to do and has conducted proper research. He has spoken to those within the club, including board members and found the ‘truth’. I think it should be a great read and an uncomfortable one for a lot of people. They won’t accept the truth though, its too bloody inconvenient.

    Wenger in my eyes is a man who has kept quite and dignified despite a lot of nonsense being written. He ignored Real Madrid who would have paid him whatever he wanted to stay with us and develope talent, talent which was procurred by the oilers and their cheque book managers. Wenger is not fallable and has made plenty of mistakes but he raised the bar to a level never before known in our club. He is criiticised based on the level he set. What I find interesting is that most of those who seem to have a morbid dislike for him and call themselves fans, seem to enjoy being abusive and condescending. Just an observation but I do wonder if that is because they are the less ‘intelligent’ amongst us.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Menace

    “You are unfortunately on the wrong site & need some coaching in spelling, reading & writing”

    That’s a little harsh on GAB…….based on his level of argument he’s probably only just started walking!

  • Polo


    The problems with kids today is they think by spending big on players that the pundits or media say Arsenal need will guarantee or put Arsenal in contention to win PL or CL but they don’t think the long term financial consequences of doing so. Yes, there could be a chance that the pundits/media are correct but it would most likely be one season, but the higher payment to buy those new players and their wage will set a new precedent for the future, therefore every new player will want minimum that price/salary. Does Arsenal have the financial capacity to sustain it during bad economic times? At the moment there is a record amount of money flooding the PL but like all things there is a chance that the money will dry up one day. It’s like the economy very cyclical. I think most of these WOBs never had a job before to understand financial responsibility.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Some great points Proud Kev 1.12. Look forward to reading that book. Yes , Wenger has made mistakes as we all do, some chose to focus only on these mistakes, some real, some perceived, some will have context to which we are not privy. But its amazing the point Wenger has done so much to bring us to when we hear that about paying the Invincibles.
    Those “less intelligent” types amongst our fanbase are just cry babies. Still, they have a big game to look forward to this weekend, they will be desperate for Chelsea, and of course their favourite manager to do well.

  • syd

    I was on a aeroplane the other day and an announcement said because a passenger had a nut allergy no dry roasted peanuts would be served with our drinks !!!! Bloody Arsène Wenger it’s all your fault

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Too true Syd.I was walking down the street the other day and I trod on a sneaky dog turd, I knew that it was Arsène Wengers fault! Ive even heard that the end of the world that’s coming on the 28th of September is all down to Arsène Wenger,its all his fault.
    Next time its raining you know its that Wenger, its all his fault!