Should Arsenal be celebrating fourth?

Champions League Pitch

Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday earned them a qualifying spot for next season’s Champions League ahead of North London rivals Tottenham.

As referee Howard Webb blew the final whistle after 95 minutes of torture for both Arsenal and Tottenham fans, Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger and his players celebrated emphatically at finishing 4th in the Premier League and earning Champions League involvement for the 16th successive season.

That is a remarkable achievement – to make the most prestigious and elite competition in club football for so many years is the mark of a top club – however there were complaints from media commentators and analysts alike that 4th place is nothing to celebrate when you haven’t won a trophy in 8 years.

Gunners’ fans will be sick to the back teeth of hearing about their team’s lack of silverware since the FA Cup in 2005 but do the naysayers have a point?

The players and the manager were obviously relieved and elated to have a) made the top four after bring so far behind just two months ago and b) doing a number on the old enemy Spurs. Is there anything wrong with that?

Clubs who avoided relegation at the other end of the table celebrated survival – Sunderland players went on drinking and gambling binges according to Paulo Di Canio – so what’s wrong with celebrating fourth place?

The lucrative television rights packages and sponsorship deals that come as part and parcel of Champions League football are certainly something majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and the board will be celebrating.

The reluctance to spend big and the sale of key players has been the major point of contention amongst fans and commentators this term as the period of economic frugality coincides almost exactly with the Gunners’ trophy-drought as the cost of building of the Emirates stadium came into affect.

Subsequently, a number of discontented fans have argues that the club has become a ‘feeder club’ to richer rivals and have accused the shareholders of prioritizing profit over results on the pitch.

View through that perspective, fourth place is nothing to celebrate – especially for a club that used to challenge genuinely for titles, not just domestically but in the Champions League as well.

Is fourth place cause for celebration or is it more a cause for concern? Well, it depends on your perspective – whether you view the Champions League as more of a necessity than silverware, which, on paper, it is: all £50 million worth of it.

Unfortunately, for the naysayers it’s always going to be, ‘fourth place = up to £50 million… Winning trophies = priceless.’

image: © El Ronzo

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