This article which I wrote two days ago highlighted a lack of stability within the top three clubs giving Arsenal the advantage heading into next season. In this article I would like to elucidate upon the idea of Arsenals growing stability and attempt to reinforce my argument.
Arsenal's fans have suffered since moving into the Emirates, there’s no hiding that fact. “No trophy in 8 years” reverberates around Facebook groups and internet forums from both fans and rivals – a trophy, it seems, being the only symbol of footballing success.
No doubt players have suffered too. Even Mr Wenger himself will have suffered - a hugely proud man and practiced winner will not have found the last 8 years at all comfortable.
We must remember though, the hundreds of aphorisms dedicated to the art of patience and suffering. “Good things come to those who wait” is probably the most popular, though, my favourite is from Hermann Hesse’s insightful novel Siddhartha, “In order to achieve what one wants to achieve one must think, be patient, and fast.” - Fast in this case, meaning to go-without a trophy. But I digress slightly…
Upon Arsenal's move to the Emirates they no doubt had a plan, or a script, let’s say. This script was to play out as follows: Keep competitive, pay off move to ultramodern arena, stay financially stable.
In addition to the script there may’ve been some sort of encore penned which read along the lines of ‘Win a trophy’, and although they wouldn’t receive much critical acclaim without it, the show’s continuation wasn’t reliant upon it.
They knew that by playing out the rest of their script accurately, the encore would naturally tether its way onto the end of the show.
And so, where are we now? We are at the end of the very last scene, awaiting the final blast of the cannon, anticipative that it annihilates a couple of birds (namely a magpie and a cockerel) with the encore to be added to their next run if all goes to plan.
So, metaphors aside, the final game of their plan is on the horizon with only victory and thus continued Champions League qualification an acceptable outcome. Without it, much of Arsenals hard work could be undone. Let us evaluate what has been achieved and how a final-day slip up could throw a spanner in the works.
No matter what has been said by football's fickle fans, the truth is that Arsenal have stayed competitive in both the Premier and Champions Leagues – entry to the latter being a corollary of a good performance within the former.
As Wenger has stated repeatedly, Arsenal have gained entry to the Champions league every season since their move. This has enabled them to continue to attract top players, continue to build upon their overseas reputation and continue to earn according to their plan. Arsenal has, without a doubt, stayed competitive.
Paying off the stadium was always going to be the proverbial thorn in Arsenal’s side. It has now been reportedly removed (the thorn I mean) as the stadium has been fully paid off. Quite an accomplishment!
Arsenals highly perilous transition has been completed which is positive news for all of the long suffering groups listed above.
Arsenal have also, whilst clearing their considerable stadium debt, managed to amass sizeable reserves - evidence that their script must’ve been a quite brilliant work of art.
There is a reported £120m pilled high in the bank, 70% of which is available for Wenger to splash on new players. Include alongside that reports of a new sponsorship deal with Puma purportedly worth £170m over five years, and Arsenal are in a very positive and enviable position.
In addition to this script, some might say luckily (though, as David Platt once said “The more I practice the luckier I seem to get”), there are a number of other factors that will arguably put Arsenal in a more stable position than they could’ve ever dreamed of being.
Each of the last few years, a fan favourite or team linchpin crossed to an ostensibly greener field. Whether it was Nasri, Fabregas, RVP, Song, Adebayor or Toure, it hindered the team’s fluidity season after season.
This summer though, there aren’t any impending contract talks or likely transfer requests from top players and, therefore, Wenger will not have to attempt to replace the seemingly irreplaceable before he can build - he can just go ahead and build.
The above may have stemmed from Wenger finally amalgamating another group of players with an equal desire, quality and loyalty – something indicated by all his young, great British talent recently signing contract extensions.
My final point relates to my earlier article. Each of the top three teams will have a new manager next season and managers, like players, might take time to settle. This certainly gives Wenger the upper hand.
The next few seasons are looking very positive on the red side of North London. A mixture of great planning and excellent tactical knowledge with a sprinkling of fortune sees Arsenal in the most stable position not only they could’ve hoped for, but also amongst their rivals.
Remember though folks, the whole plan will be defined by Arsenals qualification into the Champions League this season. One final game. If Arsenal fail to get that spot then they could expect some points above to become invalid.
Transfer requests could pour in from players desperate for Champions League football while transfer targets turn down deals for the same reason. Revenues would fall, European exposure would dampen, the stadium could even be burnt to the ground by overzealous supporters! It really is imperative for Arsenal to secure Champions League football.
If Arsenal can succeed, they will ensure their continued growth and, I predict, play that much coveted encore next season.