WTTGT Writer: Ben Crump
Last season as we all know ended miserably. The Gunners were within a point of league leaders, Manchester United in February and famously beat Barcelona in the Champions League. But for one reason or another things didn’t go according to plan ,and a run of only one league win throughout March and April ultimately paid its price. Arsenal finished fourth and an eventual 12 points of champions, Manchester United.
Arsenal had lost it all, they had even reached the final of the Carling Cup but narrowly lost to Birmingham City as the clubs search for long awaited silverware went on even longer. But not all was bad, they had still fought off competition from their London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and finished in the final Champions League spot.
Finishing fourth in the Premier League nowadays means that you have to endure a play-off instead of bypassing it and going straight in to the group dtage draw. So how do Arsenal qualify for the group stages? Well, firstly the play-off routes are split into two groups; one is for champions which features the winners of leagues that are not eligible for automatic qualification to the group stage – Scottish champions Rangers are in this group.
The second route is called a ‘league route’ and features all the teams that finished either fourth or best placed in their domestic league. Clubs are then seeded and judging by their co-efficients are forced to play in the first, second, third and eventually a final play-off round before reaching the group stage.
Wow, that is long winded, but for the Gunners, there high co-efficient means they simply will have to win the final play-off round; because they are seeded. So what does a ‘co-efficient’ mean and why is Arsenal’s so high?
Firstly, there are three co-efficients. One for country, one for league and the other for club. Statistics and results are used to calculate a countries score. The league co-efficient ultimately determines how many clubs can participate in European competition, and then there is the club that helps UEFA determine how to seed teams when it comes to competition draws.
League co-efficient is calculated by the results from clubs playing in the Champions League or Europa League over the past five seasons, and points are given depending on wins, draws, losses and where the team ended in the competition.
England are top of this particular group, closely followed by Spain and Germany thanks to the performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United (two finals), Bayern Munich (one final), Real Madrid and Barcelona (two finals).
All three of the country’s performances means they are permitted to have four teams in the Champions League but one has to qualify and that one this year is Arsenal.
The club co-efficient that determines a clubs seeding when it comes to draws and ranking is also calculated in the same way, Arsenal are 5th in this particular league table ahead of Real Madrid, Inter and Porto.
So what does this mean for the Gunners? Well they are officially seeded and have the luxury of waiting for the play-off final round. They are joined in the seeded pot by Bayern Munich, Lyon and Villarreal meaning it is impossible for any of those sides to meet.
They can prepare for smaller sides like Trabzonspor, Shamrock Rovers, Copenhagen should they qualify. It is safe to say Arsenal’s performances over the past five years have come in handy despite their lack of silverware. Their pre-season is not really hampered and all they must do to qualify is beat a mediocre side over two legs. Taking into account Arsenal’s Champions League experience, it should be relatively easy. However, should they lose, all would not be lost as the loser of the final play-off falls in to the Europa League.