We’re through, but does it matter?
When I was younger I used to play a football game where there was no Champions League mode. You could create your own competition though, so that’s what I did when I wanted to take the mighty Gunners to European glory.
At the time Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool were the big four. I always had Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan as my Italian contingent with Roma occasionally thrown in, and the representatives from Spain came in the form of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla, (it was a while ago). Bayern Munich were always there too amongst the other European giants.
I imagine that another person somewhere else in Europe was doing something similar, and that when he or she was was selecting teams for their tournament, Arsenal was in there.
My point is that we are a big club and once again we’re through to the last 16 of the Champions League. We’re likely to finish second in the group and draw a European heavyweight in the round of 16, which will almost certainly see us exit the competition.
However, it maintains our place as one of Europe’s biggest and best clubs. Arsene Wenger has kept us there for years and the work he has done at the club will hopefully maintain our position of strength for many years after he leaves.
Before everyone goes mad about me making a U-turn about our glorious leader, I haven’t. I still think he has to leave at the end of the season, (and Yaya Sanogo scoring yesterday doesn’t vindicate his decision to stick with him, because one goal for the club in nearly a year and a half is not a proof of anything but stubbornness), but Arsene made Arsenal what it is today.
As an aside, I’ve seen the arguments that he would be a force again if David Dein were to return to the club. I’ve previously mentioned how important he was. Maybe that’s true, but Dein will not come back to Arsenal unless Alisher Usmanov takes full control.
So we are a huge club. We would be in anyone’s selection of the top 16 clubs in Europe. Does it matter? I’m not sure that it does, because while it may sell a few shirts in Indonesia, it doesn’t do much else for us. We’re not going to win the Champions League.
Anyone who thinks we have a prayer this year is deluded. In all our years in the competition we have only ever reached the final once. We’re never more than dark horses, and then only rarely.
‘It bring in lots of money’ I hear you say. Money is great, and very important, but the club has repeatedly maintained that we don’t need Champions League football to pay the bills.
‘What about bringing in players, they won’t come without Champions League.’ Manchester United brought in Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao. The point to be taken from that is everyone has a price. If you offer enough money almost any player will come to the club, with or without European football. We have the money, we allegedly have a higher wage bill than Chelsea. We can afford to pay a little extra.
Ultimately the point I’m trying to make is that yes we’re through, but we’re not likely to get beyond the quarter final stage and we shouldn’t be too upset by it. We may not finish in the top four this year, and that’s ok, because we never truly compete in Europe anyway.
BUT, in a few years we will. We will compete and we will win. We ARE one of Europe’s great clubs and that status isn’t going to disappear if we don’t play in Europe for a few years because we’ve been so big for so long. We have big commercial deals because we’ve been so big for so long. We haven’t even won in Europe and we’re still huge. We have the prestige, we have the money. Players will still come to us, plus we’re a London club, and London is a big deal. So we can celebrate getting through after beating BvB, but it’s not relevant this year. Soon though…
I’m a lifelong Arsenal fan. I got my first kit at 3 years old and my dad put a nail in my wall and hung it there rather than in my wardrobe. Mum was furious.