We all know that Champions League football is crucial for the top teams in England. The income from the competition and the effects on the image of each club make it so much easier to attract top talent. That’s why Arsene Wenger once famously labeled a place in the top 4 as almost a trophy.
A lot of people made fun of the Arsenal manager at the time, but I always wondered why. The behaviour of most clubs, players and manager in England suggest that statement was spot on.
If you add the objectively measurable financial positives, one could argue that a place in the Champions League is even more valuable that the League Cup or even the FA Cup. I’m not saying that’s truly the case, but it’s certainly a viable point.
It seems that Arsenal is about to learn the full consequences of missing out on the top 4 very son. The team’s budget was structured to take a hit for a season or two, but it seems that the streak will continue for another campaign.
The Europa League exit against Olympiakos and the club’s weak position in the Premier League almost certainly mean that the Gunners won’t play in Europe’s elite next season. As it stands, even the Europa League is questionable.
For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that Arsenal won’t play in the Champions League and see what could happen in the near future as a result.
Impact on the Transfer Summer
The early rumours suggest that another missed season of Champions League football could be a big problem. Arteta himself declared that the club’s wage structure was built with the financial benefits from the top UEFA competition in mind.
There was a safety net that could cover a season or two, but it will be gone after three campaigns without the UCL cash.
I would argue that we saw the signs of that in the previous summer. On the surface, Arsenal spent a lot of money. A closer look shows that many of the transfers will be paid in increments which is another problem for the Gunners.
The team will need to sell some stars to generate cash and free some room for wages. The likes of Aubameyang, Ozil, and Lacazette are the guys who are most likely to leave.
The German playmaker is not exactly a hot commodity nowadays, while losing some of the strikers will be a huge hit to the team’s performance.
What makes it even worse is that Aubameyang only has a year left on his contract and is over 30. Arsenal won’t be able to make much money by selling their best player.
It’s a horrible spot for Mikel Arteta, to be honest, and it seems inevitable that he will have to work with a weakened squad. On the bright side, he already improved some of the current members of the team and will have a transfer window to bring some recruitments in key areas.
The current Arsenal situation is really weird, as I believe that there is one scenario in which the lack of Champions League might work out well.
If the Gunners fail to qualify not only for the top tournament but the Europa League as well, they might be in a better long-term position. That would give Arteta one year without any distractions to fight for a spot in the Champions League.
We all know how much easier it is to perform domestically without European football. You only need a group of 14-15 players to succeed which will allow the manager to get rid of some senior players that are not in his plans, without the need to replace them immediately.
That could open the door to blooding youngsters and preparing them for the future. Of course, Arsenal has to miss on the Europa League which is the tricky part of the equation, as I don’t think anyone at the club will be looking to do that on purpose.
The obvious way forward to Arsenal would be to qualify for the Champions League. If Man City’s ban for European tournaments stands, the fifth place in the Premier League will be enough for a spot in the strongest UEFA competition.
That’s where the focus of the Gunners should lie at this point of the season because a potential failure could have disastrous consequences in the long term.