With Arsenal currently experiencing a seven-year trophy drought, fans are getting extremely impatient with the lack of hardware that the team has won. Yet with this trophy drought, Arsenal has still qualified for the Champions League (UCL) every year since Manager Arsene Wenger has been in charge because they have always finished in the top four in England. Qualifying for the UCL is considered a great achievement for some smaller clubs—but at Arsenal, winning trophies is what counts at the end of the day.
Arsenal has been able to attract players since the UCL is very prestigious and important for football players to experience. If a player needs to decide between joining two different teams and everything else is equal, that player will always choose the team that is playing in the UCL.
I consider myself a very loyal Arsenal fan and have always thought that if Arsenal couldn't win a trophy, they'd at least still have the UCL to play in. Unfortunately, this is the first year that I believe Arsenal is in real danger of falling outside of the top four and not being as attractive of a team to other football players.
Over the past few seasons, I have spoken with other passionate Arsenal fans that truly believe the team would be better off if they don't qualify in the Champions League. I always found it absurd, but now I'm wondering if they have a point. While fans not wanting Arsenal in the UCL is a sad prospect and sounds crazy on the surface, their rationale makes a little sense (only a little).
Here is their rationale:
Arsenal gets additional revenue from qualifying for the Champions League on top of fans being exposed to the Arsenal brand and the potential of fans buying merchandise.
Could Arsenal benefit from not playing in the Champions League?
The argument is that if Arsenal fails to qualify, then the additional revenue stream would go away along with the money lost on their new sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines—since some of the money hinges on Arsenal's performance. So failing to qualify would spur the Arsenal board into action and would force them into spending to bring in new quality players to ensure that Arsenal competes for the title instead of just being content with a top four spot.
With rumors of Arsenal wages tied to UCL qualification to go along with player wages, then the players would play harder if their wages were lowered for a season. This is one of the weaker arguments, as players like Jack Wilshere always give 100 percent.
Wenger has taken an almost defiant attitude recently and has been stuck in his ways. The fans think that not qualifying for the UCL would humble Wenger and he'd be more open to suggestions and possibly change his formations based on the opponents.
Arsenal would be playing less matches mid-week, which would keep players fresher, allowing them to focus on winning the Premier League.
Also, not qualifying for UCL would force the board to review their wage structure and spend more on top players currently on the team, preventing another exodus of players as Arsenal has experienced over the past few years. I strongly believe that Theo Walcott's new deal is a step in the right direction, but that there has to be greater wage discrepancy between the younger players and the more experienced ones.
Finally, the last argument I've heard is that the board would want to insist on signing players earlier in the transfer windows instead of waiting until right before the windows close. Doing business at the start would allow the players to have more time to practice and adjust to the team. Signing players earlier and making strong offers would prevent other teams from scooping in and stealing a transfer target.
I strongly believe that it's in Arsenal's best interest to qualify and make the UCL every year. My worry is that players would be unhappy, fleeing to teams that are playing in UCL and have a better chance at winning trophies.
But if the day comes that Arsenal doesn't make the UCL, then I will try and use these excuses to rationalize how Arsenal can get back on the right track and compete for the Premier League title.
Let me know what side of the argument you're on.