Why Arsenal into the Champions League next season may not be the best option

by Tony Attwood

There is a big part of me that doesn’t want Arsenal to get back into the Champions League – the part that recognises that we might well get through the group stages of that competition but then be slaughtered in the first or second knock out round.  And that the knock back of another slaughter by Bayern or Barcelona, will have a negative effect on  the team.

Of course there is the recognition that although the Champions League brings in lots of money, that profit is as likely as not to go to the owner, not be fed back into the club.   This past summer the owner gave the manager £50m, which then was seemingly raised on appeal to £70m of which when we take sales into account we spent £63.8m.  It seems to me that it was spent wisely.

But wisely or not, that spend was nothing like the £156.3m spent by Liverpool.  That Manchester City spent very little is also worrying – they have it all ready to spend in January if they are not by then striding away at the top of the league.

Manchester United made a £43m profit on transfers in the summer – they too have the money there if need be – and with them, that profit comes out of their world wide marketing.  Arsenal has made progress in that sphere but I suspect that the endless negative publicity the club receives and the constant association wit the United Arab Emirates does put some potential sponsors off.

Manchester City have a similar association with that profoundly undemocratic part of the world but they have a prime sponsor who will spend whatever is necessary to keep their dominant position.

In short if Arsenal make it into the Champions League, I can’t see them getting very far with their current resources, and I can’t see the owner granting the club the £100m plus to buy players to compete in the Champions League up to the final.   

The simple fact is that resources that the likes of Barcelona, Real Mad, PSG and the rest possess is just way beyond anything that Arsenal will have.  Indeed for Arsenal even Monaco can be a threat – after all they made a profit this summer of over £200m (all of which of course is tax free), and that is sitting in a bank account somewhere ready to be used.

At the same time I don’t want the club to be funded by a state that believes in flogging and stoning as suitable punishments for those who have committed religious crimes.  And I don’t want the club to buy huge numbers of youngsters on a cattle market basis, so they can be traded.

But I suppose my attitude is also one that is affected by having been around for a long time.  Arsenal have had three eras in my lifetime of doing very well in terms of trophies (and contrary to Blacksheep’s assertion, one of those was not the 1930s).

I’ve witnessed the Graham era, the early Wenger years with the two doubles and the 49, and the latter Wenger years with the achievement of the FA Cup record for himself personally, and the club.  I don’t mean that that is sufficient for me – it is just that I can’t see the club and this owner outspending Barcelona and the rest.  And I suspect Mr Wenger was the last manager who would be able to conjure forth such talents as Vieira and Henry at prices the club could afford.  Yes Mr Emery has pulled out one rabbit in terms of Guendouzi, but will there be more?  I would be delighted if there were, but I am not sure.

Which in a roundabout sort of way means, I want us to win stuff, and I can’t see us winning the Champions League, but I can see us winning the Europa, the FA Cup and the League Cup.

Now I have oft been told that this makes me less of a supporter – that I should be pushing my club to aim for the stars.  But if that means failure – as in getting knocked out of the Champions League year after year before we even make the semi-final, why go for that?  For not only is such defeat frustrating because we could have been challenging in the Europa, it is also distracting from the other competitions we are in.

I do think it is helpful also to compare ourselves with other clubs.  In the last 10 years Liverpool has won the League Cup.  In the last 10 years Tottenham has won nothing.  In the last 10 years Arsenal has won three FA Cups. On that basis I would stay with our model.

I want us to keep on winning things, rather than focusing so strongly on the Champions League that we stop getting a chance to win some more trophies.

In our pre-season forecasts, Untold took the view that if we could take our away form back to the levels it was at before last season, we’d make it back into the top four.  I still think that is possible.  It is just that I am not sure it is such a good idea.

The latest from Untold

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Ahead of the U18s live on TV here’s the initial Progress Report

7 Replies to “Why Arsenal into the Champions League next season may not be the best option”

  1. I tend to agree with you Tony, and key for me is your comment “…another slaughter by Bayern or Barcelona”. Losing to Bayern or Barca is not unexpected and there’s no dishonor in losing to them but its the nature of the losses that’s galling. Might just reflect the way the team was set up to play but hopefully things can change with a slightly more pragmatic approach in future.

  2. We should be aiming to be in the Champions League every year not least because it keeps one of our rivals out. As a renowned businessman, Tony should understand the longer term benefits of that.
    We should also continue with the declared (by Gazidis) strategy of developing a much higher proportion of our own players which leaves more money available to compete (if necessary) at the higher levels of the transfer market if it still exists in years to come.
    The latter does, of course mean that the pressure is very much on to find and develop world class youngsters but why spend all the money that we have done on facilities and coaches and not have that aim? We at least seem to care about giving them a chance in the first team squad.
    Unlike some others of our rivals we have close to zero net debt and we appear to have a high number of really talented youngsters coming through. Both of those strengths should be exploited and a higher position in the league regularly achieved.
    The ‘mockery’ of jealous rivals for not getting beyond the last sixteen is immaterial to me. I’d rather not be playing on a Thursday night thanks very much.

  3. Insideright I agree with your comments

    We should be aiming to be in the Champions League every year not least because it keeps one of our rivals out.

    What concerns me is that yes, we should be aiming for that, but at the same time we should be preparing financially for that – not just to get there but to do well when we get there. What I see as the disaster is getting there, not having spent the sort of money that Barce etc spend on having highly experienced players from that level, and then suffering a big defeat.

    Such a defeat would dent morale and take us several steps back.

  4. I must admit and suffering from my advanced age, the only trophy worth winning is the Premiership. Financially probably not true but winning the league is always showing the true worth of a team. Cup competitions are fine and winning always welcome but do not demonstrate quality over a season.
    So, I am actually on Tony’s side about the Champions Trophy although not probably on the accountant’s side.

  5. Good piece Tony and also a good response from insideright. I can see where Tony is coming from and agree that the ‘thrashings’ are generally not good for morale but when they happen it is against the very very best and as much as it hurts me, and the players as well, I get over it by the next Saturday, as I suspect do the players. They generally live in the ‘real World’ as much as I do, and as such fully understand that as much as we would all prefer otherwise, these things can and do happen when you are up against the best. But if you asked them if they would prefer the chance to get stuffed by Barcelona on a Wednesday or win against Limerick on a Thursday I think I know what they would take every time. I’ve got to say on balance I’m with them, despite the logic behind the counter argument.

  6. The Champions League would be improved by making it a knockout competition again. The group stage is set up to help the top clubs advance (by eliminating the possibility of upsets) and to at the same time to ensure money for the little clubs. I don’t mind going up against the top clubs in the knockout stages, though, because there exists, for us, the possibility of an upset (I don’t consider us a small club).

    Having said all that, I still put the League first and the FA cup second. The league is the true measure of a team’s status within the country and the FA cup is…the FA Cup…no group stages…just go somewhere and win.

  7. Tony,
    I understand your sentiments on receiving a ‘thrashing’ from the hands of other top,sides in the UEFA Champions League. Note, as your people say – …. you can’t have your cake and eat it’. You are either in or out. The experience gathered from those forgettable matches is invaluable for the development of our players. An upward trajectory will, with time, be established and can only do us good. If we can let’s avoid Thursday night football.

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