Arsenal’s 2-0 home victory over Montpellier on Wednesday night sees them qualify for the knock-out rounds of the competition for the 13th consecutive season – something no other club have achieved.
Whilst the ‘big-spending’ Manchester City exited the competition simultaneously, and Chelsea’s departure looks, whilst mathematically certain, likely imminent, long-suffering Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is clearly getting it right when it comes to the continents most prestigious competition.
I don’t agree with Wenger that qualifying for the Champion’s League is equal to winning a trophy; but it is an achievement in itself and one that deserves more assessment.
On the flip-side, Arsenal are the only top-seeded team (in the top pot of the draw) to have not won the competition. Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, FC Porto, and AC Milan have all claimed the trophy – Arsenal were 14 minutes away from that glory in 2006, but had it cruelly snatched from them by Barcelona at the Stade de France.
I’m sure, given the choice, Arsenal would rather have won it than nearly won it or come close 13 times in a row but it’s still an achievement their deep-pocketed rivals haven’t mastered yet.
Manchester City are out – the second year running they have exited from the group stage and whilst they certainly had the toughest group – facing off against the champions of Spain, Germany and Holland, they might have done better with the talent they boast within their ranks.
Synonymously, Chelsea’s fate is now out of their hands – a win against Nordsjaelland will be rendered irrelevant should Juventus win or draw against the already qualified Shakhtar Donetsk.
A banner at the Emirates on Wednesday night read: “Money can’t buy class” – for many these are hollow words for a club that hasn’t won a trophy in seven years. It can’t buy class but it can buy quality and, indirectly, trophies.
Would Gunners’ fans prefer to win the League Cup 13 season in a row? I’m undecided and opinion would likely be divided but I think it’s safe to assume the board of shareholders would prefer to play in the Champion’s League and, without a doubt, Arsenal could not afford to bring in the quality of players they do and keep them paying them wages year after year as well as building a brand new 60,000 seater stadium, if they weren’t.
So the board must be happy, and it would not be surprising if just by qualifying, Wenger has secured his future at the club for another year despite the doubts being raised over him just a fortnight ago.
Those 13 years, although 7 were trophyless, are what the future of Arsenal Football Club is made of. And that will, one of these days, lead to winning silverware with Wenger; It has to, doesn't it?
Will Wenger remain Arsenal manager next year, is it beyond doubt?
image: © dyobmit