Why Arsenal are ranked 22nd in Europe, and what’s wrong with the system


By Bulldog Drummond

Bayern Munich have a Uefa co-efficient ranking of 140.  Only one team in Europe has a higher ranking: Manchester City on 147.  In the co-efficient table Real Madrid are third and PSG are fourth.

In terms of English clubs Liverpool are fifth, Chelsea ninth, Manchester United are tenth, Arsenal are 22nd and West Ham 23rd.   

And whether we might agree with these figures or not (and having Arsenal and West Ham next to each other seems bizarre to me, but that’s Uefa for you) these are the figures that are used for seeding teams in Uefa competitions.

In effect Uefa claim that these coefficients derive from the results of clubs competing in the five previous seasons of the Champions League, Europa League and the Conference League – the latter being where West Ham got their boost.

The seedings of course mean that clubs that have had few years out of Europe are going to get lower gradings, while clubs from leagues such as those in Spain or Italy where instead of there being half a dozen big clubs there are only two or three, will have the same teams playing in Europe year after year.  And so higher coefficients for each club.

This means those clubs get three benefits.   First they get European experience year on year, even when they are having a poor campaign.   Second because they are guaranteed European football they find it easier to recruit top players.  Third the European football guarantee boosts their commercial revenue from sponsors because the sponsors know that no matter what, the club will be featured on TV across Europe year after year.. 

But there is a further issue here.   Whereas in competitions such as the FA Cup there is no seeding in the actual draw beyond the fact that the larger clubs enter the competition later, in Europe clubs that have had European success in the past are kept apart.   

So clubs such as Arsenal which come from more competitive leagues can be readily penalised by being pushed down the rankings.  As a result, Arsenal will meet past winners in the quarter finals, while the past winners are kept apart from each other.  It is a way of perpetuating the hierarchy, which is why PSG, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus, Milan and Inter like it and vote for it. Inter and Milan dropped to third and fourth last season but they kept their Uefa rankings.  

Indeed there is a double benefit to such clubs as their coefficients are determined either through the sum of all points won in the previous five years or the association coefficient over the same period, whichever is the higher.  It is thus very hard for an outsider team to break the mould.  Girona who are breaking the mould in Spain are going to find Europe very tough.

Likewise historic facts such as Arsenal being the first English side to defeat Real Madrid and Juventus away from home count for nothing. Nor does Arsenal’s record against Inter and Milan in the San Siro stadium.

Nor indeed is there any recognition for the fact that Jens Lehmann once kept ten consecutive clean sheets in the 2006 Champions League (the one where Arsenal got to the final; which was the season in which the defence went 995 minutes until conceding a goal.)

So why is it set up like this?   Quite simply to promote the Champions League as the top football competition that people from all over the world will watch the same teams year on year.   For where in a competition such as the FA Cup there has long been the promotion of the fun that can be had by a non-league team beating league ieam in a one-off match, that vision does not exist in the Champions League.

Thus whereas a lot of people rather enjoyed the 1988 FA Cup final in which Wimbledon beat Liverpool the whole of European football is set up so that only clubs with major continent-wide support will get through to the semi-finals.

For what it’s worth my view is that Arsenal are not there yet and of course while I want them to win each game, I’d have no problem with them going out tonight, if that can be used to stimulate the team to focus on winning every remaining Premier League game and thus having a chance of winning the title.

4 Replies to “Why Arsenal are ranked 22nd in Europe, and what’s wrong with the system”

  1. And then Bayern won after all, goonersince72! Looks like the Bundesliga is ‘The Best League In The World’. The only silver lining is it makes Spurs’ Champions League aspirations harder as Germany will have minimum 5 teams qualifying for next season’s competition…

  2. Hah! I agree…losing to Villa and Bayern put a dent in the hopes of the fifth place Premier team…Spurs!

  3. Oh, and Real Madrid knocked Man City out on penalties to piss off the TNT Sports commentators and pundits (Messrs McManaman, Ferdinand and Lescott)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *