Arsenal legend Ian Wright believes it would be better for the club if we were to crash out of the Champions League and finish bottom of the group in order to focus on the Premier League.
Consecutive losses in our opening two Champions League games have made qualification difficult, and while it’s not impossible, we’ve given ourselves a massive mountain to climb.
Wright has highlighted the benefits of having no European competition however, suggesting success in the Premier League is well worth bowing out of Europe early.
“We all saw with Liverpool a couple of seasons ago how not being in Europe at all can really boost your chances,” he said, according to The Sun (via the Evening Standard).
“Playing a day later than most of your rivals means you’re playing catch-up all the time – and then there is all the travel and demands of the European games themselves.
“If winning the Premier League comes at the expense of no European football at all, I’ll take it every day of the week.”
While it’s hard to disagree with him, there are a few problems with his logic. Despite currently sitting bottom of the group, it’s unlikely that we’ll find ourselves there come the end of the group stages. Finishing third would arguably be worse for our Premier League aspirations than qualifying, as we’d be consistently be travelling across Europe on a Thursday before our league games on the weekend.
We played incredibly poorly against Dinamo Zagreb and Olmypiacos in the opening games, but you’d still expect us to beat them second time around. Bayern Munich are also likely to steamroll both teams yet again, so unless we actually throw away the games it’s likely that we’ll finish above one of them.
This is not the only issue though, as Champions League competition is a massive factor in drawing top talent to the club. Players like Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez are unlikely to be satisfied with us crashing out of Europe, and world class players are sure to be turned off by our early exit. Players of the highest calibre want to be competitive in the Champions League, and while success in the Premier League would be excellent in the short term, it might impact our ability to attract top talent in the future.
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If we end up finishing bottom of the group then it may obviously have a silver lining, and if we win the Premier League it would be fantastic. We certainly shouldn’t be aiming to miss out on the last 16 though, and should continue to give it our all.