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February 2021

Should we just give up on trying to finish fourth?

By Tony Attwood

That subject line above seems to be the essence of an article I have just read on the internet.  One that itself has the headline:

Should Arsenal prioritise winning domestic trophies with top-four hunt to become increasingly difficult?

The essence of the argument seems to be that Man U will bounce back next year, and that for the last two years Arsenal have only just made fourth spot.
So, the writer seems to suggest, Arsenal could well decide to focus on League Cup and FA Cup triumph because a top four finish will be tough.
I won’t dwell too much on the article as I am not 100% what the writer was saying but there was a real implication therein that Arsenal would certainly not even think of winning the league.
But there was more – an implication that everyone else will get stronger – but Arsenal won’t.  Now why that might be so I don’t know, but that is how it reads.  The rest of the clubs up their game, but Arsenal stagnate.
In fact I think the writer is wrong on both counts.  I don’t think all the clubs that are considered will step up.  Nor do I think Arsenal will stay put, or slip back.   Here’s why.
Looking at Arsenal today – I can’t recall a stronger team since Pires, Henry, Vieira and Bergkamp did their stuff.  This is not to compare the current team members with those players overall, but when I look at each department I am very impressed.
As I have said a dozen times, only injuries did for us this season, and a couple of judicious purchases to help cover the injuries will do us no harm at all.  Plus, I am hopeful that the publicity we have given to referees who do not protect Arsenal players will help ease the situation also.   Certainly some of the pre-match referee previews have alleviated some of the worst excesses of referees – so there are reasons to hope for a little more fairness.
Additionally, we have players stepping up.  I analysed the loan players the other day in an article here, and didn’t find much hope that any of them would step into the first team next season.  But we do have some fringe players who can start to move into the first team lineup.
I’ll come back to this in another article, but I do feel the squad is already strengthened.  But what of the other point?  The point that says, everyone else will strengthen.  I am not sure this is true.
Let’s have a look.
Manchester City.   We have covered Man City in terms of European FFP and we know they are being hit.  But there is also a Premier League FFP and the first judgements are expected around December 2014.
I believe Man City thought they could sail through the PL FFP  regs just as they thought they could with Uefa – and they couldn’t.  Of course the Premier League might kowtow to their financial might and just roll over, but they might not.
Under Premier League FFP rules the losses allowed are three times higher than those in Europe, but wages can only go up by £4m a year if not covered by increased revenue from commercial deals.  This could trap City, and the Premier League is bound to cut out some of the fancy “consultancy” deals that City tried to use to overcome Uefa.
Even if City do think they can play fast and loose with the Premier League they still have to watch Uefa, and given that their original plan was simply to buy success spending however much it took, they are now slightly off course.   It is not enough to knock them way down, but it could make next season much more difficult for them.
Liverpool.   Liverpool has a bigger problem.
First they are desperate to build their stadium, and to do that they have to show the banks financial stability (having gone bankrupt just a few years back).  Excessive spending is not the way to do it.
Second, they are currently qualifying for Uefa FFP, providing they make a profit this year.  And next year.   That again means keeping the spending down.
Third, they made their push to second, by playing eight European less than Arsenal.  Indeed they made their push when they had nothing else to play for.   Now they are in Europe again, there will be extra demands upon them.
Fourth the boasting by their chairman to the effect that he openly lied about contracts when Arsenal approached for Suarez, will make other clubs more wary of doing a deal.
Chelsea – more of the same?
Chelsea had no problem with Uefa this time around over FFP and their income of some £40m already from a sale means they will probably be ok.
But Mourinho was hurt last season, and made a lot of fuss about forwards.  Just how much does he want to spend?  How much does he need to spend?   Chelsea will I think be much the same as this season – but a good purchasing policy with the player/s settling quickly could aid them.   A cock up in the market could prove costly.
Andy this is world cup year, and that in turn means players come back late.  A newly signed player will come back late, and then have to fit in.  Not every new player is going to fit in at once.
Tottenham H – more of the same!
As the research we reported shows, sacking your manager when you are in the top ten is not a clever idea.  As our review of tottenham managers shows, sacking your manager when… well you know the rest.
Unless the new bloke puts the reserves out in Europa (which I can’t imagine the chairman allowing) they are going to be drained on Thursdays.  And they too, like Liverpool have a desperate stadium situation.  Work should have started two years ago.  It is not a promising scenario.
Tottenham might make it up to fourth one season, but not until they get the stadium sorted and stop accepting Europa entries.
Everton – a rise up?
Yet another club that needs its stadium.  There just isn’t the money for wholesale investment in the team.  Holding on to that regular 5th/6th place is what is needed until the stadium is built and the club is sold.
Man U – a return to the top?
The only things that mitigate against them getting back to the top four are
a) what happens when a top club appoints a manager
b) problems recruiting when not in the Champions League
c) fitting a lot of new players in after they return from the world cup
d) a level of expectation
So they are like Tottenham last season – they will have several new players.  On the other hand they have no FFP problems and no worries about playing in Europe.  A bit like Liverpool this past year.
I don’t think it is cut and dried as the blogger I quoted at the top, felt.  I’d look for a top four in alphabetical order of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Man C, Man U.
Why such a fall from grace for Man C?  I’ll come back to this later.

33 comments to Should we just give up on trying to finish fourth?

  • jambug


    I absolutely agree with you that the basis of this article is totally without foundation, but the truth is it is no different to every other Summer.

    This is how it always goes in the Media.

    Everyone else will buy lots of great players. We will hardly buy anyone, and the ones we do will be crap.

    And yet how many Summers have Liverpool and Spurs shown us how it’s done just to fall flat on there faces. You’d of thought they would of learnt by now wouldn’t you?

    Dagliesh was magician, now he’s a chump.

    Levy was a master wheeler dealer, now he’s an even bigger chump.

    Every year we are going to be dumped from the top four.

    This just sounds like a different way to say the same thing that’s been said for the last 5 or 6 years.

    So yep, utter crap.

    But I don’t agree with your optimism about how we will be Refereed.

    As far as I recall the last time we played the Ref was an utter disgrace, perhaps only the 2nd worst performance behind Taylors we’ve seen all season, yet the Media, the Referees sole Judge Jury, thought he played a blinder.

    Ex Referees thought he played a blinder too.

    But this is the thing, since the Final everyone I have spoken to that is a footy fan, whoever they support, said there was at least 3 pens. Same with the wifes mates.

    Even the neg heads on here concede the Ref had a mare.

    So it seems everyone with half an eye could see what we could all see, AND YET still the media brushed it under the carpet, or worse, found in the Referees favour.

    Sorry Tony I do not share your optimism on this point one little bit. In fact I think it will be worse.

  • Kelser

    I also saw that article. I couldn’t believe how utterly fucking broken the authors logic was!

  • bob mac

    Oh what joy to see the team you admire so much in the top European competition EVERY year.

    The opportunity to watch The Arsenal play the best that Europe has to offer fills me with immense excitement, although to win would be the ultimate aim, just to be in it is surely enough.

    Now that we have the FA Cup, does it really matter about another trophy for now.

    Enjoy all the good things this team and manager have to offer, that’s what I call being a supporter.

  • hemed swaleh

    utter bullocks,i cant help bt wonder what arsenal did wrong to deserve the refs and media backlash…GTID

  • LRV

    Tony, Summer interlull will not be complete without such internet trash as the one you have read. The writer is perhaps one of those click-whores working for any one of those daily rags. I don’t even pay them any attention.

  • Mike T

    No manager, of a top club, a club with real ambition would at seasons start be looking at cup competitions as the priority over the league.If they even dare think that way, behave that way, plan that way they would be doomed to failure.

    Cup competitions are too much of a lottery. You might well progress a round or two but then against lesser opposition you easily could be the subject of a cup upset. Or, be drawn against one of the big boys and bang that’s the end of that. No way back, no chance to make amends.

    Utter rubbish to suggest the league shouldn’t be your main focus and priority

  • David

    I can’t agree with the City argument, they will be strong next year. I Liverpool will be the ones to miss out on top four because they over achieved this year and the way they play won’t be a big surprise this time around to the teams they beat this season. Plus they will find Europe much harder now, look how City struggled first couple of seasons and they had previous winners, too. Liverpool will be in a nightmare group I reckon.

    I hope we buy well (as I do every year) and the point about the injuries is that it happens every year so we need to do something different to stop our players spending so long on the sidelines. I am quietly optimistic, we have a good squad (when they’re all fit).

  • Ever since the beginning of the 2008/9 season, Arsenal has always been predicted to fall out of top 4. The only difference was that it used to be the media making the prediction while us Gooners fought and opposed them for writing such rubbish.

    Now, after our best season in 9 years, why would any Arsenal fan in their right mind be talking about sacrificing top 4 finish for a League or FA cup? The prevailing sentiment and indeed the logical step is for Arsenal to go for the league, finish as high as possible and try to pick a trophy along the way.

    It seems like the author’s screed is nothing but click-bait. I won’t be surprised if his next article is on how Arsenal must win the 2014/15 league and how a cup or anything less is nothing but failure.

  • Flavour

    If it is true that playing the Champions league gives Arsenal £25mil then for the past 17 years Wenger has give the club £425mil, this should have paid for the stadium. The truth is we had serious financial issue that is now in the past. What we have achieved this season is a foundation of what the years will be. I don’t think anything can stop us now. We have the right mentality.

    Please if you haven’t read this amazing book on Arsenal and what it means to win I think you should get your own copy and see the prediction of the author coming to pass. It is called “Football And Life: The Winning Mentality.” You can use the following link to look it up and I can assure you that you will be impressed. I even saw on Amazon that Tony gave a review of this book.

    UK Paper Back Edition:

    UK Kindle Edition:

    US Paper Back Edition:

    US Kindle Edition:

  • jambug,

    I find your position on what we’ll be facing in officiating next season very troubling. And that is because it is true. Remember that till tomorrow, no one in the media has brought Anthony Taylor to book.

    I am afraid that it will be the same story next season. We’ll be kicked from August to January/February when the net effect of the kicking would be setting in. I really hope that I am wrong but with an open season on kicking Arsenal players, I am afraid. I really am.

    My only wish is that all our fans asking for investigations into why we have so many injuries would to put all that effort into asking the referees to stop allowing our opponents to kick us all over the pitch. We are not asking for any preferential treatment; we are only asking that the referees do their fucking job.

  • Flavour,

    Nice book plug there.

    Your financial analysis is naive to put it kindly. Seriously, it doesn’t work that way. Not at all.

  • philo

    i am not a British and i stay far away in dark corner of a continent called Africa.
    Arsenal is a british team – right?right.
    my question is why so many people especially the british are so anti-Arsenal
    a certain Durham will not waste time given the opportunity to bash Arsenal-he can right pure crap.rubbish.
    in my opinion Arsenal is one of the most successful team in England considering its model of running a club
    A club with itz own stadium should be ranked viewed as a role model -but ummm-its a big surprise how this great team is trashed left,right and centre


    I can’t wait for the media darling Liverpool Motherfuckres to fall flat on their face. This past season they played 42 competitive matches. Arsenal played 58 competitive matches, I am no math wiz, But that is about 40 percent more games our team played than the red scousers did. Also before they played Man. U. at Old Trafford, They had 15 days off. That is like a mini winter break. They also had very few injuries to their starting lineup, And those fucking assholes only finishes 5 points ahead of us. Think of what Arsenal could have achieved a mini winter break and playing 40 percent less games. I wanna see those motherfuckers cope with playing in Europe and dealing with injuries to key players. Would not surprise me to see those assholes finish in seventh place, Back where they came from.

  • gouresh

    I haven’t read this blogs but i had a similar fear at the end of the season. I don’t know if manure will get the refs decisions next yr or the last season was just a 1 off to side track us. We know the love mick reily has for manure. As for the FFP rules, knowing how the FA and PL works, i am very skeptical if they will enforce strict punishment against offending clubs or will they slap a fine which is loose change to clubs line mancity or hellsea. I am not holding my breath, we know how UEFA have acted till know. We all know, unless the authority come down hard, it will be a complete farce. I hope i am proven wrong.

  • jambug


    You and me both.

    And if you think what that Durham writes is bad, at least you don’t have to listen to the crap he spouts on the radio, it’s worse, with absolutely no right of reply as all calls are censored as to ban any pro Arsenal calls.


    Unbelievably, winning something has made it worse.


    Long time no hear. Been a bit hung over have we ?

    Yep, it will be interesting to see how the scousers cope next year. Loss of surprise, many more tough games and the pressure of higher expectation.

    Only thing is they’ll have the media love-in behind them every step of the way and in there wake of course the Referees.

  • Gord


    Off-Topic: Ars Technica just started a story on unsafe cookies with WordPress sites. This has consequences to anyone who logs into any wordpress site via public wifi.

    Being able to login via HTTPS is a partial fix for self-hosted wordpress sites. 26 comments at the moment, some technical.

  • Pete

    Liverpool will need a larger squad to cope with the Champs League… except that they don’t have any money. They really don’t! Therefore, I agree that they are the most vulnerable to falling out of the Top 4. It also looks as if Suarez will be rushed back from knee surgery for the World Cup – something which is highly likely to give several complications through next season.

    Regarding Chelsea, there were some rumours flying around a couple of days ago that Mourinho was very vulnerable to being axed (apparently Abramovich prefers Simeone).

  • insideright

    Everton will also need players to cope with the possible loss of loanees and extra matches in Europe.
    Spurs will need to spend heavily to replace their failures of last season and to facilitate the pressing game that their likely new manager insists on. The likes of Adebayor just don’t do that sort of thing!
    Concentration on winning cup games (which to some extent relies
    on the luck of the draw) is naive in the extreme.
    Arsenal may be the only one of those clubs who don’t have to sell before they buy and that could be a huge advantage to them.

  • Tom

    Bill from Manhattan
    As far as know it wasn’t a surprise to anyone how many games they had to play before the start of the season ( give or take a few , depending on how deep each club progresses into cup competitions.
    Liverpool made personnel plans adequate to their fixture demands and Arsenal should’ve made theirs accordingly as well.

    Why don’t we assume , based on passed experiences , that Arsenal will have to play some sixty games next season an February and March are going to be extra tough , and plan accordingly instead of complaining about it every season at about the same time each year.

    Let’s have a roster of players Arsen trusts enough to feature in games they should be able to feature in ,like in the league cup against the lower league opposition for example, instead of playing our Ozil’s and Ramsey’s in those games and then acting surprise when they break down from fatigue.

    Having won the FA cup this season should make it possible for Arsen to go back to his original approach of treating the league cup as it should be treated – a theater for our squad players to showcase their talents thusly saving our star players for more important competitions.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Next time we have the chance to win 5 trophies.
    And just as last season we will play Man City one week before the league starts. If we get the same result in that match against City we could show two fresh dates on the wall that they TV cameras show about 7 times each match. I bet they will not do that again after the first match.

    I would give the league cup to the young guns. Even if we would draw the tiny totts at home. Reaching the league cup final is extremely tiring with a two legged semi final (who can come up with such a thing?) and having matches being postponed if you reach the final.

  • jambug


    For an intelligent bloke you do talk rubbish at times and this is one of them.

  • dan


    Is there a pattern, certain ref’s deployed the week prior to a big game?

  • nicky

    Let’s make it clear. Each season we try to win the EPL. The toughest league in the world.
    If we cannot achieve this, the next 2 places will still give us automatic entry into the following season’s Cl.
    A 4th place attains entry into the play-offs for the CL. And this is our minimum aim, each and every season.

  • jambug


    You say:

    “Let’s have a roster of players Arsen trusts enough to feature in games they should be able to feature in ,like in the league cup against the lower league opposition for example, instead of playing our Ozil’s and Ramsey’s in those games and then acting surprise when they break down from fatigue”.


    Ramsey and Wilshere played ONE game each.

    Walcot and Ozil NONE.

    FA Cup (excluding the final)

    Games played:

    Ramsey ONE

    Wilshere TWO

    Walcott ONE

    Ozil Three

    So out of SEVEN Cup games:

    Wilshere Played THREE

    Ozil Played THREE

    Ramsey Played TWO

    Walcott Played ONE

    And in those 7 games 4 where against Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton.

    That is why you are talking rubbish Tom.

  • para

    Ooooo, there is a sense of doom here today. SO let me cheer you all up.

    Arsenal will enhance the team with some players AW has long wanted, but could not get at the time(for what ever reasons).
    Arsenal will wear the (updated modern) invincibles strip next season(my wish).
    Arsenal will take the footballing world by storm, and become the “Harlem globetrotters” of football.
    The media will be falling over themselves to praise us.(Sorry, don’t really want that one, just want them to treat us fairly).

    What i am trying to say, is that Arsenal is going to surprise us all in a good way from now on.
    Mark my words, as my mother used to say, we are on the way, we are on the way.

  • “Tom, For an intelligent bloke……..”

    Ah ah ah, jambug you flatterer 🙂

  • Micheal Ram

    Jambug is exactly a … jam bug. I love squashing them in the morning.


    Tom, All I was trying to convey is that the media darlings Liverpool played forty percent less games than us. Ergo they had a lot more rest than us. Are you telling me that it is no big deal. The more games you play, The more tired one gets. I would like to see how many off days we had compared to those scouse motherfuckers. I bet you they had a helluva lot more than us. Are you telling me that it doesn’t matter, In my opinion over the course of a season it matters a great deal. The more tired a player is, The chance of injury gets higher. Maybe that is the reason they had very few injuries to their front-line players. And being media and English darlings they get special treatment from the referees as opposed to us, We get kicked all over the pitch and they get protection. We are a bunch of Johnny Foreigners and they are true blued British darlings. How many penalties did they get, How many questionable decisions went their way. In the F.A. cup against us, They didn’t get a soft penalty and the British media howled in protest and didn’t shut up about it for weeks. Makes me wanna puke. A mongoloid idiot can see this, but you cannot. Bootoomee and Jambag are correct, You are a thick pompous fucking douche-bag. So fucking happy those British Scouse Bastards choked down the stretch. The British media darling assholes couldn’t get the job done, Just like the three pussy-cats team are gonna do in the upcoming World Cup. Haven’t won a major tournanent in close to a half a century and not gonna win one this year. British media scumbags kept bringing up Arsenal’s nine year trophy drought, Whining incessantly about it. They are silent about the short-comings of the three pussycats and never bring up the fact that Media whores Liverpool haven’t won the league in almost a quarter of a century. Very interesting. Why is that.

  • Heded the working theory of what Arsenal did wrong was that as with some clubs in Italy, they did not pay the money.

  • jambug

    Michael Ram

    Slightly off topic and utterly irrelevant….but apart from that, a very good post 🙂

  • @Bill from manhattan I would love to borrow some of those you have there are some morons I want to abuse until they die. Ha hahaha ha hahaha just love those words.

  • jambug


    You say:

    “Let’s have a roster of players Arsen trusts enough to feature in games they should be able to feature in ,like in the league cup against the lower league opposition for example, instead of playing our Ozil’s and Ramsey’s in those games and then acting surprise when they break down from fatigue”.

    I was hoping you would be back to explain.

    Maybe you cant, in which case Tom, maybe you should do a little research before posting.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    The PGMOL may well declare open season on Arsenal’s midfield.
    This is one reason I would love to see Cesc Fabregas back.
    Imagine the Shawcrosses of the world looking at our bench.
    Seeing a dozen of great creative attacking midfielders.
    I would most definitely abstain in such circumstances.
    But Shawcross is an Orc, and he would not abstain.