We currently sit in 10th place, 7 points off of the European places and in indifferent form. Depending on who wins the FA Cup, finishing 7th could get us back into the Europa League, but the chances of doing so are looking increasingly unlikely.
Winning the Europa League brings with it the coveted entry into the Champions League, however the cold hard truth is that we’re not good enough to win it this year. Inconsistency and mistakes have been the theme of our season and we’re not going to fix that any time soon.
So where does that leave us? Realistically, we’ll finish around 10th place. Our next league games are against the spuds, who have just hit form, West Ham, who have been excellent all season and Liverpool who have been as terrible as us recently but will no doubt give us a game. We’re fully capable of winning all three but capable of losing them too. Even if we did win them all, we’re not moving far up the table.
So we’re left with the inevitable question, how badly will not being in Europe hurt us?
The answer is complicated and dependant on several factors.
The most obvious one is money. Without the cash from European games how will be cope?
Having seen how competitive getting in the top 6 is we hope that the club planned the finances for a season without European football. Potentially the club planned for a season without fans too, which will mean that having them back will mitigate not being in Europe. Our problem longer term will be sponsorship deals, which will drop in value the longer we don’t play those big European nights. We may also need to sell some players to balance the books, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
No Europe means top talent like Partey won’t be coming to us right? Wrong. They come because we can pay their wages. European football is a big draw, but money is bigger.
For every players that chooses (slightly) less money for a higher chance of silverware and Europe, there’s a player that will choose higher wages. This is not a criticism, it’s a product of short career. If Arteta identifies a massive talent I’ve no doubt they could be convinced to join the club based on our vision and the right wages.
We have a big squad in order to deal with a large fixture list. No Europe means less games. We’ve trimmed the squad back already, (Sokratis, Mustafi, Özil etc) but we still have a lot of players who will get less and less game time next season. As mentioned we’d need to sell some players to keep the dressing room in good shape and (keep the wage bill down). Young players coming through who normally get a game against the likes of Dundalk will also get less game time so they’ll have to go out on loan. Less games also means less injuries, which is the silver lining.
We hear the prep time argument often. When we have a week between games we have time to plan and have the team ready with a game plan. The harsh reality is that extra planning time has not helped us this season. We had a week to prepare for our draw with Burnley. Going back over our results we also had a week to prepare for a 0-0 draw with Leeds and another week to get ready for our loss against City. By contrast some of our best results this season have been following on from a midweek game.
Overall we need to be ready for some more tough times. Next season we’re almost certain to be out of Europe. We can concentrate on getting back into the top 6 and have good cup runs. Hopefully there will be less injuries to key players and less fatigue at crunch times like December. It may be the best thing for us as Arteta moulds the squad into a genuine challenger for top honours.
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.