You get used quickly to fancy stuff. Don’t believe anyone who tells you the opposite”
“I may be a millionaire but I am the same chap I’ve always been!”
“My yacht in Saint-Tropez? I’d be twice as happy with my inflatable in Exmouth!”
“The Michelin three-stars restaurants every Saturday? Nothing beats my nan’s food!”
We went from the breath-taking football of the early 2000s to the horrific things we witnessed last winter; we went from thinking how soon St. Totteringham Day would come to wondering whether or not we would finish above Sp*rs. A slow decline, started with the arrival of exotic billionaires in the Premier League and helped by some appalling decisions at board level, at recruiting level and on the pitch.
I miss having genuine fun watching the Arsenal and having my breath taken away by moments of individual or collective brilliance; I miss the mix of anxiety and anticipation of a big European night or a crucial league game.
I am desperate for us to get back there, so desperate that I would sacrifice both the qualification for a European competition as well as St. Totteringham Day.
We tried to get back to the Champions League by winning the Europa League and failed four times, perhaps it’s time to take a different path. Back in 2019, Unai Emery fielded a weakened team to face Crystal Palace at home and lost, making way for Chelsea to pip us in fourth place before eventually spanking us in Baku.
Now that qualification for the Europa League is extremely unlikely (although not impossible…), we find ourselves in a good position to get to the European Conference League, set to be launched next summer, and I wonder whether it would be more of a hurdle than an opportunity.
With very little money at stake and the automatic qualification for the Europa League as the main prize, are we sure this is where we want to head to? I need to highlight that I’m not advocating for the Arsenal to lose next game (or any game in general…) but I wouldn’t pull my hair if Everton or Sp*rs qualify for that ahead of us.
I feel we’d have a better shot at a top-4 finish if we plan next season solely around the Premier League, without the disturbance of a pointless European competition.
I cherished our win in Copenhagen against Parma, our last European triumph, but I don’t see any similarities between the Cup Winners’ Cup and this new UEFA competition, which is a like-by-like replacement only on paper. I know it’s provocative to wish we would not qualify for any European competition but I strongly believe it could be for a greater good, the famous one-step-back-to-take-two-steps-forward that we failed to take when we were playing the Europa League.
I feel that next season should be used to trim the squad down, select a core of 18/20 players to build the future around and let youngsters fill the gaps, while hitting the market for specific targets, quality players with real added-value.
I feel that a restricted squad would be well equipped to mount a serious challenge in the league, playing on the weekend only and having more time to prepare the games during the week, while if we qualify for the next European Conference League would add up to 15 games to our season schedule and lots of travelling, often to obscure destinations, not to mention the potential risk for injuries due to extra games.
For those thinking that Mikel Arteta could use the European Conference League in a similar fashion to Arsène Wenger and the League Cup, I believe UEFA would be more than happy to crucify us on the altar of fair play and fair competition, in case we field the kids: they don’t like us since the European Super League fiasco and they are kind of waiting for us to do something wrong.
All of this for a money prize believed to be one fifth of the Champions League’s and a place in UEFA’s secondary competition.
Thanks but no thanks.
Instead, let’s get rid of some expensive players (Willian, Alexandre Lacazette), let’s build around the likes to Tierney, Gabriel, Thomas, Auba, Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Pépé and let’s Balogun, Azeez, Ballard or other prospects grab a place on the bench or even in the starting XI, at times. We might be up for some more pleasing surprises.
I feel that Manchester City and Liverpool are still miles away but the remaining teams fighting for a place in the top-4 aren’t superior to us, so perhaps having only one focus could make Mikel Arteta’s job a bit easier and give us a better chance to climb back to the top (four…)
This season, we lost 6 and drew 2 of the 14 games we played straight after an Europa League, which cost us 22 points in total, points that would put us third in the league, close to Manchester United in second.
I feel that, with little more preparation and fresher legs, we would have won against Fulham, Leicester, Aston Villa, Wolves and Burnley at home, while we collected 1 point out of 15.
Third place in the league means automatic qualification to the group stage of the Champions League, means being a Club on the rise and means that the Arsenal would be a fanciful destination for top footballers again.
Would I sacrifice another St. Totteringham Day and the European Conference League to achieve it? Of course I would.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.