Featuring in the UEFA Champions League is considered an indication of quality among football clubs, so it’s easy to understand why some would think Arsenal’s Premier League title odds suffer as a result of missing out on Europe’s elite competition.
However, the Gunners need only look back at the past two English champions, Leicester City (2015-16) and Chelsea (2016-17) to spot their chances might actually be better off without Champions League football.
Manager Arsene Wenger’s side failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1997-98 when they finished fifth in the Premier League standings last season, breaking a 20-year streak for the club and damning them to a term in the UEFA Europa League instead.
But the statistics suggest not having the pressures or distraction of a Champions League campaign may be beneficial to a team’s Premier League hopes.
Tracing back to the division’s rebranding in 1992, seven of the 25 Premier League champions—or 28 per cent of title winners—claimed the crown in seasons they were not participating in the Champions League.
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Altogether, 15 of the 25 Premier League title winners fell out of the Champions League in the round of 16 or earlier, a 60 per cent share of the sample. This serves as further proof that save for those rarely talented outfits who can afford to do both, teams stand a better chance of Premier League glory if they exit Europe’s premier tournament earlier on—or don’t compete at all.
Prior to Leicester’s fairytale Premier League triumph in 2015-16, the previous 10 champions had all featured in the Champions League with varying success, but Chelsea’s league triumph of 2016-17 now makes it two champions in succession without playing in the continental competition.
The Premier League’s elite has grown from a a select few clubs into six or seven contenders, and the growing spread of TV rights money, for one example, means those who can play without Champions League responsibilities have more cause than ever to launch a domestic title challenge.
That stretches to England’s cup competitions, too. While Arsenal have won three of the last four FA Cups on offer, all while in European campaigns, it’s also significant they won that trophy in 1997-98—their last season without Champions League football—on the back of a run advancing to the latter stages of England’s cup competitions.
Granted, in a season without the Champions League, Gunners fans will be expecting silverware from other contests and not merely challenging, but in that vein, Arsenal stand a better shot of challenging.