Why not qualifying for Europe would be a great blessing

by Bulldog Drummond

It’s not an Untold original, but “Doldrum Derby” did strike us as rather a funny way of announce the weekend’s Tottenham v Arsenal game.

But it raised the more serious question, “Are Arsenal really in the doldrums?”  We’d argue not, given that a season out of Europe all together could work wonders for a team being re-shaped, just as it did for Liverpool after 2015/16 when they came eighth in the league to make it a decade without winning either the League or the FA Cup.

For instead of that being the start of a decline into mid-table mediocrity they used it as a rebuilding moment, came in with a couple of 4th places in the next two seasons, a couple of Champions League finals and then the League title.  That is the sort of rebuilding that works, and that season out of Europe (meaning no thursday trips to Outer Turkenistolia and back) clearly was put to good use.

And it is not just Liverpool who have taken a year out to great effect.  In 2015/16 Chelsea came tenth in the league, and so obviously did not qualify for Europe.  The following season, without all those trips to foreign parts, they won the league.

No guarantee of course that it would work for us, and just two examples don’t make an absolute rule but it could help.  I’m really at the point of thinking that we should use the rest of  the season to experiment with the squad, let other clubs battle it out for a Europa place, and then just get on with winning either the League or the FA Cup or preferably have a fourth double.

The fact is the media brainwash us with stories about how vital it is to get into the Europa and how a season outside Europe would be a disaster for us, but in reality that is because football journalists always write again what other football journalists have just written.  (If there was an award for the best original football journalism each year, nine years out of ten it would not be awarded).

You know how it goes.  Arsenal get more injuries than everyone else, Arsenal commit more fouls than everyone else, Arsenal must get back into Europe, Arsenal’s recruitment of players is a mess – there is no thinking behind all this stuff.  It is just what is said over and over and over again.

Tottenham on the other hand have now had ten seasons in Europe ending up with losing to Liverpool in the final.   That was an achievement, true, but still no a trophy in sight.  Yes they have won the League Cup twice in the last 21 years, but other than that we have to go back to the FA Cup win in 1991 to spot the silver.

Arsenal have won three trophies in the last six seasons, to retain the position of the club with the most FA Cup wins to their name, and those extra cup games don’t really put too much extra pressure on a club.  No, it is those long treks across Europe and all the extra thursday games that spoil things when it comes to a league challenge.

And what if Arsenal do get into Europe by grabbing the bottom qualifying place (whatever that is depending on what CAS do about Manchester City).

Last season Wolverhampton Wanderers qualified for the Europa by coming seventh and entering into the second qualifying round.  The first leg matches were started on 23 July – two weeks before the first of our first team squad played their first friendly.   With this season ending late and probably crashing into the start of the next season, our players are just going to keep going all the time filling in match after match playing the likes of Linfield, and Ludogorets Razgrad.  And I mean no disrespect to such clubs that make it to the early stages of the Europa – they need the money and the extra matches.   But Arsenal don’t at this time.

Arsenal are not that far away from having an excellent team.  Indeed as we saw the other day Arsenal are just five goals from being top four.    That’s not too bad a position – but it could all be knocked about by starting next season with Europa games virtually before the this season has ended.

Although Untold has been really critical of a plane-flying card carrying anti-Arsenal campaign to remove two managers in the last two years, we do now seem to have a certain unity among some of the fans, plus we can be grateful that we did not hire Mourinho because (according to the Metro) Arsenal did not appeal to him,” even though he was spotted in the directors box to watch our win over Vitoria Guimaraes.

Tottenham are perhaps now contemplating the wisdom of their appointment given that his win percentage with the “Tiny Totts” is 41.94% – quite a decline from 58.33% he knocked up with Manchester United and the 58.82% he achieved with Chelsea.  That even puts the 54.55% that Arteta has with Arsenal in the shade and beats the 57.25% that Mr Wenger got (although of course over a much longer period that Mourinho could contemplate even if he added his last four tenures together).

Maybe Mourinho has lost his touch.  But also maybe there is something about Tottenham, that just makes winning things in the 21st century (apart from the league cup, 2008) such a trial.  Mind you, come to think of it, in their case the 20th century wasn’t much better.



4 Replies to “Why not qualifying for Europe would be a great blessing”

  1. I have enjoyed much of the team’s time spent playing Europa League games. They have been a light relief from all of the other drama surrounding the team and they give the manager a chance to include squad players and youngsters on their way up.

    Concentrating solely on success can lead you to forget that football is a spectacle that can and should be enjoyed.

  2. I honestly believe that the club are heading in the right direction and one year out of Europe is not going to hurt us.
    The young players we have in the squad now are all at a competitive level and all that is lacking is some experience in game management and confidence.
    Oh and one other unknown, luck.
    The refereeing will always be there. We just have to be better.
    We’ve done it in the past and we can do it again.

  3. I agree, Tony. The elephant in the room, of course, is the finances. If the club can keep its head above water without European money, then it makes sense.

    As I was watching our matches against Brighton, Sheffield United and Wolves, I couldn’t help but think that though we had better players, their players played more cohesively. The match against Leicester showed that our team play was improving.

    Specifically, I noticed that when player A was passing to player B, player C was already moving to a position to receive the ball from player B, On defence, we are starting to (in basketball terms) ‘help the helper’ in our rotations. Of course, teams such as Man City and Liverpool involve players D and E in their movements…we are not there yet. But, more time on the training pitch during the season, instead of travelling to various parts of the continent on Thursdays, would allow Arteta to develop the pattern play that is so necessary in any successful team.

  4. Hey Bulldog,

    Talk of AFC playing in the Europa League usually centers around money. Just how much would Arsenal receive by qualifying and then, if they perhaps made the semis? If the total doesn’t at least allow the purchase of a starting ‘name’ player it certainly isn’t worth the wear and tear, etc. What’s the benefit of playing Thurs./Sun. at an obscure city against an obscure side? You can get the kids some experience in the domestic Cups. I agree that a year out of Europe could be of benefit as the case of Liverpool you cited. Even though the European refs don’t allow our players to be kicked off the pitch like the PGMOL do I’d still say stay home , build the squad and get into the CL places the following season. Just an opinion, but I agree with your assessment.

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