5 Implications of Chelsea's Champions League Victory for Arsenal FC
Manchester City is so fixated on and obsessed with Manchester United so much so that it's even said that it rankles the Citizens to no end that a Google search for Manchester often returns results with United on top, not City.
Their recent title, to be sure, isn't so much a triumph in the English League (that's adventitious); the joy, the sweetness of it lies in the fact that they triumphed over Manchester United and finished above them.
In the days leading to the final game of the season, a few Spurs fans had expressed their wish publicly: They wanted to pip Arsenal for third, so that when Chelsea eventually won the Champions League the following week in Munich, they'd celebrate Arsenal's failure to play in the Champions League next season.
The prayer boomeranged. But to say that Arsenal fans weren't scared out of their wits in that final week is to state a blatant lie.
Chelsea's win—some are saying it had been written in the stars—cast into focus Arsene Wenger's agitation on the sideline as Arsenal were bent on making a hash of that most important final match, which by all means they needed to win.
Finishing fourth would not be enough, since victory for Chelsea in Munich would render this achievement null and void.
It is why Spurs must be pitied and sympathized with, no matter the rivalry that exists between Arsenal and the club.
This usurpation by Chelsea has simply washed Spurs' season achievement down the drain. What's more, this has financial implication as well—it reduces the club's projected revenue, which in turn restricts their buying power in the transfer market.
For Arsenal the implications are different. I state them under five headings in the following.
1. Arsenal and Play-offs
The fear is that this automatic qualification by Chelsea renders Arsenal the fourth English team for next season's Champions League, meaning therefore that Arsenal would be constrained by this circumstance to play in the play-off round, a tough prospect.
The logic of this is sound. The Week, a UK weekly magazine stated the following last week: "The Week approached Arsenal and the club said that it expected to face a play-off and was preparing for just that eventuality if Chelsea won."
Wenger has repeatedly stated the importance of finishing third as he did not consider a fourth-place finish good enough.
For one, it doesn't guarantee playing in the Champions League, since the team could be knocked out in the play-offs; for another, the Chelsea factor would, again, simply defeat the purpose.
To say therefore that the club was ready for this eventually is simply to put on a brave face before this unpalatable circumstance.
But not to worry. In the same article, The Week stated this:
When we spoke to Uefa the news was better for Arsenal. A spokesman said that if Chelsea won the tournament then England would have four teams in the group stages of the Champions League, which means that Spurs are the only English team facing the prospect of a play-off.
In short, Arsenal are safe: no play-offs.
2. Chelsea are now the Undisputed Kings of London
Since 2005 when Chelsea won their second league title after 50 years, they've won it twice more: retaining it the next season and winning it again two seasons later—three titles since Arsenal last won it.
Within the same period, they've won the FA Cup four times, the Carling Cup and the Community Shield twice each.
Their greatest achievement, though, is the recent one: the Champions League title. They've won it in their second attempt, that is, their second final in four years.
It is no secret that this is the most coveted trophy for Arsene Wenger, who failed to win it in 2006 when Arsenal reached the final.
Compared to their top-four rivals, Arsenal are the least successful in terms of trophies within the period under study.
Liverpool, for example, have won the Champions League in this period and have been to another final. They can also add to this success their recent Carling Cup victory.
Manchester United have won four league titles, three League Cups, Four Community Shields, have won the Champions League once and have been to two more finals.
Here, though, our focus is mainly with the London clubs, among which Chelsea must now be considered the best, even if they still lag behind Arsenal in overall achievements.
The only thing Arsenal can boast about is their brand-new, state-of-the-art stadium, an achievement no other team has been able to match in recent times without subsidies from somewhere.
The trick though is to translate this achievement into success. The fact that this stadium is the reason Arsenal are now ranked among the top most valuable clubs in Europe is indisputable. What remains is, again, translating this into success.
That Arsenal need to answer back in the area of winning trophies is as important to its life as gravity is to normal life on the planet, pardon the grandiose analogy.
But as I have stated elsewhere, Arsenal must recognize this time as a time of transition and consolidation; otherwise they run the risk of going the way of Liverpool.
3. Ruggedness is Important
Chelsea's victory over both Barcelona and Bayern Munich was again the triumph of defense over attack. Chelsea players themselves acknowledged that they had rode their luck in these three games. In other words, they knew they were the second best.
What gave Chelsea their victory was their discipline defending, made possible by the level of experience in the squad.
Didier Drogba, for example, knows how to break up matches by his diving antics. He didn't do it the final but he continually shadowed Bayern's center-backs.
Frank Lampard is experienced and forward enough that his teammate appear to defer to him on many occasions.
Ashley Cole, isn't just the best left-back in the Premier League and arguably in the world; he combines his skill with experience.
In other words, this Chelsea squad is replete with experience. I believe this is what gave them the victory.
Arsenal would possibly have bamboozled Bayern Munich in the first 25 minutes or even 75 minutes and then go to sleep through inexperience.
When therefore I have said in previous articles that Arsenal need to sign one or more experienced players, players like Clint Dempsey, Marouane Fellaini or other such players, it is in view of these sort of matches, where experience trumps flair.
Youth, indeed, can win titles—think Borussia Dortmund having the better of the more experienced Bayern side—yet dogged experience can often be the difference between success and failure.
Had Arsenal enough experience last season, I believe they could have won the Premiership title. Experience—of Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun, even of Thierry Henry—made a huge difference in this season's near-disastrous campaign.
My conclusion therefore is that Wenger must temper his preference for youth and skill with solidity and experience. It is why teams like Bayern Munich, Manchester United, AC Milan retains experienced players in their squads.
4. Depth is Indispensable
I am a staunch Wenger supporter—he is a great manager—but one of the statements he makes that never ceases to annoy me is the big-squad idea. "We have a big squad," he'd say.
No, Mr. Wenger, we don't have a big squad; we have a thin squad full of many dead weights.
Aaron Ramsey was overused because in the first half of the season there was no other replacement for him except Tomas Rosicky, who at this time wasn't fully fit.
Arsenal lost a number of games this season because, despite the ostensible big squad, we did not have a replacement for Mikel Arteta.
I understand injury played a part, but we knew at the beginning of the season that Abou Diaby was injured as was Jack Wilshere.
Robin van Persie was overused because no other reliable striker was available, even though we had two others on the bench.
Of these players that went on loan—Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Joe Campbell, Denilson, Andrei Arshavin—which of them inspires huge confidence right now?
Chelsea had to play the Champions League final without four of their must important players, Bayern without three of theirs. Could Arsenal have coped without, say, Vermaelen, Walcott, Arteta or Rosicky?
If you argue that even Chelsea were dependent on certain players (say, Didier Drogba instead of Fernando Torres), I'd say that may be part of the reasons why they finished on the league table were they did this season.
The reason why Arsenal hasn't won any titles in seven years isn't because Wenger's emphasis on youth is unsound; it is because he has failed to balance youth with experience.
His weakness is his tendency to be forward-looking, which is well and good, except it is to the detriment of the now.
What Arsenal needs to succeed immediately is what I'd called "actual depth," the now depth, as opposed to "potential depth," which is what the current squad has. It is not depth at all, since it doesn't help the immediate cause, and it is unlikely to if things remain the same.
5. One Quality Signing Can Make the Difference
A good example of this is Mikel Arteta, who exceeded the expectation of many. The salient quality in this case is experience.
A few can argue away the importance of Juan Mata to this Chelsea squad. He signed with Chelsea at a fee Arsenal couldn't afford—£23.5 million.
What is noteworthy, though, is that he has helped Chelsea win the Champions League, and this achievement will yield a financial dividend that will be not less than £50 million (Barcelona earned €51.025 million last year).
I have argued for two more quality signing.
The reason why is this very point in hand. Sign Yann M'Vila or Jan Vertonghen and Shinji Kagawa while retaining van Persie (even at the risk of losing him for free next season), and you immediately lift the quality of the squad several rungs.
Else sell off van Persie quickly and then in turn do a Manchester City to other clubs (it is a game that is real and inevitable), say Newcastle by signing either Demba Ba or Papiss Cissé or Cheick Tioté. In lieu of this, sign Olivier Girourd. Doing so will, again, change the complexion of the squad.
What is very important is the signing of a creative midfielder. It is here that Arsenal need to close their eyes and buy a quality player. The return I believe will be worth the sacrifice in the end.
This is the time for consolidation.
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