Arsenal are in danger of crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage following consecutive defeats against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos, but could an early exit be a blessing in disguise?
Although qualification is not technically out of reach, it looks extremely unlikely – especially given that we face German giants Bayern Munich in back to back fixtures. Fans are understandably furious at our poor performances, but failure to progress could see a silver lining emerge.
Firstly, let’s look at the possible options should we drop out at this stage. We could either be dumped out of Europe entirely, or we’d be demoted to the Europe League. Would either really be that bad?
Currently, we are in a competition we are seemingly ill equipped to win, with Arsene Wenger failing to get us past the last 16 in years, and guiding us to the final just once.
Progressing from the group stages would obviously see our bank balance boosted substantially, but with our finances as they are at the moment, that’s really not a priority.
If we were to drop out of Europe completely, while our finances would take a hit, we would be able to focus entirely on domestic competitions. The majority of our attention could be on the Premier League, and with almost no midweek fixtures we’d have a major advantage over our rivals.
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The FA Cup could also get plenty of attention, and we could go on to win it for the third year running – a feat last achieved by Blackburn Rovers way back in the 1885/1886 season.
While the Champions League is the trophy every team wants to win, we are unlikely to do so just yet, and Arsenal fans would surely trade a European run for our first Premier League title in years.
And what if we were to drop down into the Europa League? Arsenal fans have spent years tormenting domestic rivals Tottenham and Liverpool for their inclusion in the competition, but it’s still a trophy, and we could realistically win the competition if we put our minds to it.
Up against teams like Fenerbahce, FK Krasnidor, Club Brugge, and Villarreal, we really should hope to come out on top. And although it’s obviously a second rate trophy, it would still be an achievement – plus would guarantee us entry into next year’s Champions League.
On top of all of this, an early exit from the biggest club competition in football – and the potential that England could lose it’s fourth Champions League spot (read this article from Sky Sports if you’re confused about that) – could be the kick up the backside Arsene Wenger and the board need.
Wenger’s talent for getting us into the Champions League every year without fail, regardless of the finances or the team he’s working with, has seen us become complacent. It has played right into the hands of Stan Kroenke, who first and foremost is looking to run an economically viable business – with trophies seemingly coming second.
If the massive pay packet we receive from Champions League qualification each year comes under threat, then Wenger and Kroenke may start to reevaluate things. With Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Arsenal having been a cut above the other teams in the league in recent years, a minimum fourth placed finish has always seemed achievable. If top three were required, then things would certainly get far more difficult – with significant investment potentially needed.
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We have become accustomed to competing in the Champions League, but have rarely done anything of note in the competition. We are clearly some way off winning the trophy, so it arguably wouldn’t be so bad to concentrate our efforts elsewhere for a season.