Arsenal FC: Should the Gunners Focus on the Champions League or EPL?
Another football season is upon us, and Arsenal FC has a vital decision to make: Concentrate on English Premier League success, or shift focus to the 2012 UEFA Champions League?
Arguments can be made for both, and we'll walk through some for both sides. The Gunners can benefit from success in either, so it's difficult to determine which league would pay off more for Arsenal.
Here's how we view the debate of how the Gunners should play their hand this season.
For the Champions League: Major Financial Bonuses
Sure, the EPL is important in its own ways, but the Champions League brings about one huge advantage for the winning team: money.
According to Champions League Betting, the winning club receives a total prize payout equal to $170 million. All is not lost with a loss in the final match, however. The runners-up are awarded a cool $60 million in prize money.
A PremierLeague.com report from earlier this year listed the richest European football clubs, and the Gunners pulled in at second among EPL teams in February 2011, trailing behind rivals Manchester United. A bulky check after a Champions League win would certainly help them pull closer to United on that list.
For the EPL: Struggling in the League Creates Bad Exposure
International play has its perks, but embarrassing the club and losing focus of EPL play wouldn't look good for the Gunners, either.
The last time Arsenal finished worse than third place in the Premier League (2010-11), they failed to advance past the round of 16 in the Champions League, so there may be a correlation between the two.
Showing signs of weakness in their home league is never an advantage for any club. Losing focus of EPL play, and thus earning a poor reputation among EPL players, could put Arsenal in a bad light and potentially steer players from them.
If it gets to that point, the Gunners wouldn't have to choose which competition to focus on; they wouldn't be able to compete in either.
For the Champions League: Gives Fans Hope If Gunners Struggle in EPL
If the Gunners fall victim to the successes of rival clubs Manchester City and Manchester United and struggle in EPL play, fans can always look to the Champions League for a second chance at triumph.
Arsenal haven't finished in first place in the EPL since the 2003-04 season. Though not dropping below fourth place in the last decade, the constant dominance of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea has perpetually stolen the spotlight and hijacked confidence from Arsenal.
Still, the Gunners have had the Champions League to prove to themselves and their fans that they are a world-class football team.
A streak of international success can raise the spirits of both the club and their fans, regardless of their EPL standing.
For the EPL: Matchups Against United's Robin Van Persie
On August 17, striker Robin van Persie's eight-year tenure with Arsenal FC came to an end when a transfer deal was announced with Manchester United.
Van Persie inferred that playing for Manchester United is what he wanted all along. He told the Independent, "I always listen to the little boy inside of me in these situations—when you have to make the harder decisions in life. What does he want? That boy was screaming for Man United."
The 29-year-old also told the British paper that, "Nobody is angry at me and I'm not angry at them."
This belief is debatable, as many Gunner fans could be spiteful towards the former Arsenal forward. The majority of them would like nothing more than to see their club sticking it to their former hero and showing him that his choice was the wrong one.
Van Persie and the Reds visit Arsenal on November 3 at 8:45 p.m. ET, and you can bet the Arsenal faithful will be pulling for EPL success that night.
Decision: Focus on EPL
The Champions League boasts advantages for Arsenal, but overall, Premier League success should come first and foremost for Arsène Wenger's club.
Coming away unsuccessful in EPL play would prove to be too damaging for the Gunners. Champions League play may help fans forgive some EPL struggles, but players Arsenal could potentially seek via transfers would hesitate to join a losing club.
It should be trivial for Arsenal to key in on their EPL fortune this year, but focusing on Champions League success doesn't always have to be compromised. This isn't so much of a one-or-the-other situation as it is about playing sound football that will help Arsenal, no matter what sort of match they're playing.
All things considered, Premier League victories are something that the Gunners can't replace with international success. There's something unique about taking down your rival clubs that creates a lasting impact among fans and players, and that's where Arsenal's attention should be directed in 2012-13.
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