Arsenal’s 3-3 draw at home to Fulham on Saturday which saw them lose a 2-0 lead in typically woeful fashion, on the back of a draw in the Champion’s League to Schalke in midweek, and a loss to United at Old Trafford the previous weekend, Arsene Wenger must now pull his head out of the sand and recognize his team are in a crisis.
The Gunners currently sit 8th in the Premier League, having taken just 16 points from a possible 33 – 11 points off the league leaders United and miles away from genuine title contention already.
They’ve won just four games this season and may well find themselves in a spot of bother come May if they keep shipping goals and gifting points they way they have so far.
But should the unthinkable happen – Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal finishing outside the top four – it might actually be just the medicine the Gunners need.
1) Arsenal have been criticized in recent years for running the club at the top like a PLC – since the departure of David Dein, the club have operated in a particularly corporate fashion in the transfer market.
They’ve sold off their captains and star players for a number of years now, replacing them inadequately with good but not as good players. Should they find themselves excluded from the Champion’s League, they would lose millions in gate receipts, television licensing revenue, advertising sales, and would really feel the pinch of their Emirates Stadium deal which is suffocating their spending ability even now.
But if a big corporation starts to find itself in the red, it tends to change its strategy within the market, move the personnel around at the top, and change direction.
Arsene Wenger’s mantra of Arsenal’s top-four status being equivalent to a trophy would no longer apply and he might find himself surplus to requirements at the Emirates, despite his past glories and legendary status.
Should he stick around, he would no doubt find himself under increased pressure from owner Stan Kroenke and chairman Ivan Gazidis which, at the moment, he isn’t. They’ve both backed him all the way because it makes sense – financially.
But the economics major might have to adapt his philosophy if it started to cost the club money and would likely find himself re-investing, spending money to make money, rather than accumulating his ‘war chest’ each summer.
2) Secondly, Arsenal, like their North London rivals Spurs, would be much more likely to win the slightly less glamorous Europa League than they would the Champions League.
Arsenal would be favorites in the Europa League and if they could muster the squad durable enough to handle Thursday’s trips to Dynamo Jetlag, they might actually get their hands on some silverware.
3) Arsenal’s biggest problem at the moment is, like an alcoholic, denial – they need to admit to themselves they have a problem – at the moment they’re focused putting out contract fires all over the place – Walcott and Sagna will be gone by next summer and this cycle of contract rebels leaving for their direct rivals will only continue.
Even players like Jack Wilshere will get sick of seeing their mates make more money wining trophies elsewhere if this habit of selling off their best players in their prime persists.
No amount of chest-thumping and badge-kissing will ever convince me that players will stay under those circumstances.
4) Ultimately, Arsenal need to replace Arsene Wenger – not fire him for a poor run results, but eventually he will need to retire from his post – right now Pep Guardiola is traipsing across Europe looking for a project but Arsenal aren’t interested in replacing Wenger.
Falling out of the top-four might just be enough to see the Gunners make a change at the top – probably too late get Guardiola but they could easily land a world-class coach with a similar style and philosophy.
It would be a catalyst to kick-start what is inevitable – replacing Arsene Wenger who at the moment is only hanging around because he wants to win a Champion’s League trophy.
5) They would be forced to sell-off wage budget drainers like Sebastian Squilacci, Andrey Arshavin, and Tomas Rosicky who, despite having put in some decent performances in the past are not good enough to be hired at any other top-four club.
Arsenal’s pay-scale needs some serious re-assessment and the loss of Champion’s League earning would see them tighten their belts once and for all.
It certainly wouldn’t be preferable to anyone associated with the club – but exclusion from the Champion’s League might be just what the doctor ordered for Arsenal Football Club.
It would be a tough pill to swallow, and certainly not a preferred choice for Arsenal fans, but can you see how it could ultimately transform the club for the better?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald