Champions League But Never A League Of Champions


Arsène spoke after the Montepellier match of his pride in the record of qualifying for the Champions League and progressing to the knockout stage for the 13th consecutive season. Indeed it is an outstanding achievement considering the fact that in only two of those seasons, Arsenal qualified for the competition itself as champions. That Arsenal as a club were able to participate identifies the paradox: The Champions League containing more teams who have not won the previous season’s domestic title in their homeland than have. Not particularly a league of champions, is it?

That is not Wenger’s fault. He did not make the rules and whilst his professionalism avariciously grasps the opportunity, the sentimental heart must equally be tinged with sadness that there is nothing magisterial about the tournament. Uefa created a money-making monster of which it has all but lost control hence their craven capitulation to the clubs when the question of international friendlies arose. Nothing will change, no looking back but as a tournament, it lacks that special feeling it had two decades ago.

Europe has long been the club’s Achilles Heel, Arsène’s as well. The consistency of qualification is a record to be proud of but overall, the performance when in the respective tournaments pales by comparison to his domestic achievements. Two losing finals in his tenure at the club seems scant reward for qualifying for either competition fifteen seasons in a row. Of course, there are clubs who during that time have not reached any finals but of those considered to be big clubs in the European game, Arsenal have amongst the poorest record with just a Fairs Cup and a Cup Winners Cup to show for their efforts.

Arguably club competitions came along two decades too late for Arsenal. The halcyon days of the 1930s had long passed when Hanot’s idea came to fruition. Equally, being The Establishment Club, it is not unreasonable to assume that Arsenal would have followed Chelsea’s lead and not entered the Champions Cup had they qualified in the 1950s. I doubt Chelsea thought they would have to wait another half-century for a second opportunity to participate following the board’s decision not to capitalise on their 1954-55 League title, not entering at the behest of the English footballing establishment.

Bertie Mee qualified for Europe in successive seasons (even if 1969-70 was via the back door), Neill did as well. George Graham suffered most with the ban on English clubs playing in Europe affecting more than half of his reign. Had it not been in place, the likelihood is that he would have qualified for club competition in every season of his tenure. As it is, Arsenal’s record under Arsène is unparalleled in the club’s history but the playing field is not level. Those who point to qualifying for the Champions League specifically never mention the change to the entry criteria laid down by Uefa. Had that not changed, been consistent with previous decades or bans rescinded, Graham would have been in the same category.

Despite those opportunities, he has never been able to bring home either of the trophies remaining. It is something which is noticeable by its absence on his CV. Wenger’s record is:

Season Competition Round
1997-98 UEFA Cup 1
1998-99 Champions League Group
1999-00 Champions League Group
1999-00 UEFA Cup Runners-up
2000-01 Champions League Quarter-Finals
2001-02 Champions League 2nd Group Phase
2002-03 Champions League 2nd Group Phase
2003-04 Champions League Quarter-Finals
2004-05 Champions League 2nd Round
2005-06 Champions League Runners-Up
2006-07 Champions League 2nd Round
2007-08 Champions League Quarter-Finals
2008-09 Champions League Semi-Finals
2009-10 Champions League Quarter-Finals
2010-11 Champions League 2nd Round
2011-12 Champions League Quarter-Finals

Arsenal have been eliminated by some good teams in this time; some distinctly average ones as well. When you look back, 2003-04 is surely the biggest regret. The semi-finals contained four of the weakest teams to have competed at that stage at any point in the tournaments history by comparison; the Champions League was there for the taking yet Arsenal contrived to lose to Chelsea at home. Paris was a heroic failure, a bittersweet taste of what might be. The problem for Arsène is that the elite clubs in Europe are investing heavily in chasing the dream and whilst they cannot all win it, insurmountable barriers are being erected in front of Arsenal. Perhaps the club’s true standing is in the top sixteen in Europe and no more?

A lot is said of the club lacking ambition, about fourth being the sum total of the desire for the season. Ambition strikes me as the wrong word but for the life of me, I am not sure which one to use in its place. Stating that all Arsenal want is to qualify for the Champions League is incorrect; that is the minimum expectation which is why achieving that is not heralded by supporters in the same way that the manager likes to publicly but privately, his disappointment will be deeper. Yes, we’ve been spoiled but when you achieve something regularly, it is not longer a treat but a benchmark set by previous performance. When you achieve the minimum, people naturally want more, expect progression. Will that come in Europe whilst domestic achievements stagnate? It is hard to make that case but such is the perversity of professional sport, it would be of no surprise if this season’s Arsenal went one further than their equally unsung 2006 predecessors.

’til Tomorrow.

154 thoughts on “Champions League But Never A League Of Champions

  1. @Will

    According to Capoue’s club we actually bid on him but they had already sold Sissohko so they refused to sell Capoue. Rumors(I know but I rate this lad very highly and think he would be absolutely perfect for us) that we are going to sign him similar to Podolski and announce it early. I sure as hell do hope so.

  2. @Purple Verve

    I do think we will see a lineup like that against Blackburn but the midfield might be different. I could see Le Coq playing for Arteta since we have Bayern that same week but you could be right mate.

  3. ” i think we are just ‘competing’ foremost to earn money and will invest to a magnitude that will optimize financial reward while minimizing risk. That means shooting for 4th spot. The riskier investment needed to shoot higher will not be made as the risk/reward is not good due to the fact that we have 3 major clubs willing to outspend us.”

    Really Andy ? Well stick this through your Google translate cos mine says “Spend money = Competitors / Don’t Spend money = not competitors”
    There’s a world of grey in between those dichotomous black & white examples.

    We could have invested more and get a Capoue/Debuchy (as examples) or spendt a little more (retain RvP for the last season) and we could compete a bit better but the risk/reward sweet spot is shooting for 4th. We can achieve that without having to risk a higher investment.
    I don’t think our current business model of selling our best players to Citeh (Nasri, Ade, Clichy, Toure), Manure (RvP) and Chavs (Cole) and generating a transfer market surplus each year is a business model that will win us the EPL. Do you?
    In my mind we aren’t in it to win it, we are in it to maximize the bottom line. But that’s business. I don’t expect the board to govern in my best interests, I expect them to do so in Stan and the other shareholders’ best interests. It appears that we will maximize reward and minimize risk by shooting for fourth. Just my opinion. That won’t stop me from enjoying the product on the field.

  4. Really ? So simple I never realised – what a fool I have been

    So why the f*** are Citeh and Chels not competing this season ? In Europe their “competitive” effort was laughable, the PL is long gone
    Last I looked both those teams are competing better than us and were above us in the table.
    They are surpassed only by Manure who spent heavily and purchased Kagawa and RvP.
    When Stoke, Reading or Villa don’t spend their way to be competitive top 3 teams I’ll stop believing that there is a relationship in the EPL between spending and finishing in the top 3.

  5. I don’t follow Philmar

    Do you think Citeh and Chels are ” competing” on the basis that they are miles behind Manyoo – in spite of spunking literally 000s of £ millions more than us – but we are not

    However if we hosed a lot more money into ?????? Whatever

    We would compete

    How does that work then ?

  6. My god yes

    Poor old Citeh

    How on earth could they expect to overcome the mighty Ajax

    Lol – Ajax FFs

    And as for Dortmund well any side that put them out of the CL at the group stage must be quite a team

    Oh yeah – us – last year

  7. ALL of City, Chelsea and Man U spent big last summer. So of course 2 of the 3 will be disappointed. ALL can’t be in first place. Man U spent wiser. They got proven EPL ready world class RvP. Do you think they’d be in first if they HADN’T spent big and splashed mega millions on RvP. To suugest City and Chelsea are proof that spending doesn’t work would ONLY be true if the team that is in first was NOT ALSO a big spender.

    Also NONE of the 3 biggest spenders find a NON-spending team in front of them.

    Therefore, you need to spend to win but spending doesn’t guarantee winning (as only 1 tean can win).

    Not spending seems to correlate with NOT winning.

    I believe the AFC Board realizes this and has correctly decided shooting for 4th is easier and less risky than spending at the magnitude required to win (because spending large won’t guarantee winning). It is a risk/reward decision. A rational one.

  8. Yogi, The Arsenal Board of Directors made a decision in the early part of this century to go for a new stadium plan, rather than pursue a global brand plan. The evidence is in the commercial income that our direct rivals can now proudly boast about.

    It would seem that the new Emirates deal for 5 years from season 2013/2014, is mainly for the shirt. The £150 millions deal is perhaps £140 millions for the shirt and £10 millions for the Stadium naming rights, payable in the next decade. HOW and WHEN, the £28 millions (?) is paid, we are in a “known unknown” scenario.

    HOW and WHEN, the Barratt money (£10 millions) is paid, is another “known unknown”.

    For the summer of 2013, it would seem that The Arsenal are now in a position to pay well over £20 millions for a top grade player, who has the ability to improve and to fit into the current squad.

    Someone asked about the property surplus, according to my spreadsheet based on the annual Financial Reports, it was about £60 millions. Remember the flats have to be fitted out etc., which comes to about two/thirds of the selling prices! Have a browse, you are bound to learn something new!

  9. As a minor factual point Philmar Citeh bought Rodwell & Sinclair last Summer ie fuck all

    No doubt the argument is having done the £1 B&B Sheikh Mansour can only expect this season’s pathetic effort cos he is now a miser

    Chels – loads – any better ? Nope

    So I want a clear explanation

    Who should we sign

    For how much

    And where will we finish ?

  10. Nah…Arsene builds a squad he thinks is capable of competing with the very best. If it wasn’t for the high profile defections we may have come closer and perhaps achieved greater that 4th or 3rd. Funds have not been as readily available due to the Stadium move. We all know this and it’s old ground we are raking over. I find it impossible to believe that Arsenal have decided that “shooting for 4th” is easier, doesn’t strike me as being part of AW’s nature and it’s a risky banana skin of a strategy anyway. We’ve fallen short these last few years, trailing in the wake of the huge investments (or financial doping if you prefer) of the teams above us. AW has done a great job keeping us keep us fighting at the top, not to mention providing countless moments of great football along the way. If, and it’s always a big if, he can keep the core of this side together, and with the right additions over time, we’ll be competing for the league. Maybe even as soon as next season in fact.

  11. @Philmar

    I dont agree mate, the Chavs have spent move than us yet sit only what 7 points ahead of us as of today and are wildly more inconsistent and a much bigger disappointment than we could ever be. Not in the CL(we are still alive), knocked out of the CC (same as us), while spending way more than we have. In the past year they have brought in Oscar, Hazard, Demba Ba just to name the 3 major signing yet Hazard alone cost more than Santi, Podolski and Giroud combined.

    Yes last term the Chavs won the CL but it was mainly on the back of Drogba basically saying I’m going to win this by myself. Yes in 2004 they paid 24M for him. They also spent 50M on Torres and how has that worked out for them. Liverpool has spent widely more than us yet they sit below us in the table correct?

  12. Anicoll – “So I want a clear explanation

    Who should we sign

    For how much

    And where will we finish ?

    Yes, this backs up your points perfectly………. 😉

    Seriously, nobody is saying that buying means instant success. Only that it gives you more options and a better chance. Your stance of going “no, no, no, no” when anybody mentions possible purchases is baffling. And before you say it, nobody is asking for insane amounts to be slurged on players like Carrol or other such shite buys.

  13. The 2nd leg of the PSG – Valencia tie could be very interesting. Ibra recieved a straight red during today’s match and will miss the next match atleast. Could Valencia pull the upset even though they have been shit in La Liga?

  14. Didn’t we finish above Chelsea last season even though they spent more than we did?
    Kind of makes the above argument a trifle impotent don’t it.
    How about Liverpool spending more than us,,, when last did they finish above us?

  15. My stance is “no no no”

    No no no that is not my stance for a moment

    My stance related to the – as I regard it utter bollox – that there is either a conspiracy among the owners of our club deliberately not to spend in order to layer their own wallets or that they are somehow equipped with such utter fuckingly inept financial nous to run the club into hell.

    Look at Philmar

    They are greedy

    They are thick as shit

    Or both

    On the other hand one of our opponents has been highly successful

    Therefore …

    Lounges on coach twiddling Coward dressing gown cord

  16. Anicoll

    Who should we sighn, Top top quality players is who.

    For how much, how the fuck would we know how much they should cost.

    Where will we finish, I guess that depends how well the whole squad plays over the course of the season..

    What exactly is your point ? Do you have one because I sure as shit don’t see it.

  17. Pistol – “How about Liverpool spending more than us,,, when last did they finish above us?” I trust AW would spend the cash in a less retard way way than Dalglish.

    Anicoll – Manure have won the lge (and CL) in recent years. Chelsea, ditto. M City won the lge last year. Now I am not advocating spending like they have, but to try and say that spending (well) does not help your chances of success is demented. And I emphasise the spend well bit.

  18. Who should we sign

    For how much

    And where will we finish ?
    My point is we need to spend if we want to WIN the EPL.
    Thanks for reminding me that Citeh bought f-all last year. So the team that outspent them (Manure) are ahead of them.
    Chelsea spent big and it got them from 6th or 7th to 3rd (so far). So the bigger spenders (Man U & Chesea) are doing better. It is accepted by most people that City’s spending is what ifted them from midtable obscurity to a serious challenger. We generated a transfer surplus last summer and currently sit 5th rather than 3rd.

    Not sure why i need to provide a shopping list to prove that there is a correlation between spending and team position.

  19. Hmm. Lots of the same old argument. In there somewhere, from Miami and Philmar with a shot of andy, I think. Something new and awful did seem to appear from the murk.

    Is Arsenal just a brand in a portfolio of sport ‘ franchises’ , where the profitability of the whole agglomeration is what is important. That is, Arsenal, as an independent entity with it’s own aspirations and hopes doesn’t actually exist anymore. Well, no more than Cadbury’s anyway.

    No, that must just be a nightmare, mustn’t it? Mustn’t it?

  20. Spending does help, however it’s no guarantee. Chelsea spent and they won at first, Man City spent even more and they won (at first?), Man Utd under Fergie have always spent big for short term glory (but for them success has continued). It’s more than just spending alone, it’s building for the future, it’s keeping a manager on a long-term basis, a manager with vision and strategy, and the stability that flows as a result of that. We will have continued success in the future because under AW we have all those things. Some have allowed the mantra of 7 years without a trophy blah blah to blind them to the bigger picture.

    F*cking hell I do waffle sometimes. Not half.

    Juve look a bit bobbins on the evidence of this evening at any rate. Hmmm.

  21. Well the point as “shure as shit you don’t see it Pistol is spending money on players – on wages- is not that important”

  22. The most boring comments section for many a day. Notoverthehill doing well with his old “Known/Unknown” routine – but Bobby Gee… Tsk! You sound almost normal these days, man. Get a grip people!!

  23. Harry – “Man Utd under Fergie have always spent big for short term glory (but for them success has continued).

    Heh, the best post of the day 🙂

  24. I think I’ll just stick to “I agree with” comments in the future. It saves me having to, actually, y’know, think about something worth saying. That’s a right pain in the arse is that. Thinking of coherent sh*t to say.

    I agree with Anicoll.

  25. I’ll believe spending isn’t important when Wigan, Stoke or Reading win it.

    Anicoll, nowhere am I saying we SHOULD spend more.I am saying we would need to spend more of we want to win it. However, to do so would be financially risky as we’d have to spend a lot and there’s no guarantee we’d win it. The Board doesn’t have the appetite to risk millions and spend what it would take to win it. So they’ll shoot for 4th, the CL lucre and have a team that is still able to be in most competitions for most of the year to guarantee bums in the seats every home game.
    Because we have Arsene, this can be attained with minimal risk. Arsene is so damn good that he can attain 4th AND still create a transfer surplus. But let’s face it – this surplus has been created and helped Man City’s rise up the ranks and also pushed Manure to this year’s title.

  26. Even Andy’s taking the piss now. Sheesh. I knew what I meant to say. Even if no-one else did.

    I’ll get me coat…

  27. No it’s too late now. The damage is done. You’ll be sorry when I’m gone. One day there’ll only be Bill left to moan you all into submission. You’ll all be begging me to come back then…


  28. its not about spending money as such..
    its the making money that really pisses me off..
    it comes hand in hand with the weakening of the team..
    it doesnt need to happen it hasnt needed to happen since 2010 but it still does..

    ppl for instance are suggesting we could do with a couple of additions like capoue and jovetic to complete the squad but we already had rvp and song..

    preferred to announce 35mil profit though instead and therelies the continuing problem..

    more of a concern though is what other top paid manager can get away with saying our defensive issues are the price we pay for our current tactics? after 7 years of winning nothing and having defensive problems to boot?

    if theres a problem and he cant fix it or he cant be bothered to then whats he being paid for?

    also, its always one extreme or the other…

    defence or attack
    profits or bankrupt
    4th or a trophy

    its scaremongering propaganda and ppl are starting to see through it..

    AW should answer to the board but theres nobody on there with the bollox to tell him and lets face it, if a businessman is seeing his investment return 35mil every year hes not going to give a flying fuck how it came about.

    IG says AW answers to the fans so seeing as though the board have no bollox then we might as well show some and thats kinda whats been happening over the last few seasons especially, with more and more questions being asked and typically unanswered..

    either way our tactical issues have fuck all to do with how much money we do or dont spend..

  29. Anicoll
    I never said it was. But you tell that to a professional footballer, I’m sure they find it important. Wages that is. Trophies too.

  30. Nowadays I just read the post and don’t bother much with the comments. Don’t people get tired arguing about the same shit everyday? The posts are repetitive, tedious and attention seeking. More and more the arguments here are not about football or arsenal but about grandeurs of self delusion! People oscillate wildly from one extreme to the other, the end result is that the more interesting posters have drifted, others given up the ghost completely! You kind of feel if this carries on at some point even yogi will wake and think fuck it I can’t be bovvered anymore!

  31. everyone with common one interest fighting it out..all for what?

    lets trust the club to do the right things and only when do the things look horribly bad should we get in..right now things are looking alright for arsenal is what i feel.

    i belive we can win the fa cup and go much far in CL. i also firmly believe arsene wants to spend..if there is a player available arsenal will move swiftly like in the case of monreal – we all know how that decision is turning out. i dont think buying players is a very simple task but we are trying our best is what matters to me.

    please dont judge every single decision every minute..and what is the point of talking so much about what could have been done..its done..done and dusted.

    this might turn out be the greatest season in arsenals history.

  32. jurgen klopp –

    “We want to be very, very fast with the mind and the legs. Everything at full speed. There is no defending against what you do quickly and accurately.”

  33. Rune – A agree that some of the debates of quite repetative; but with no games for a few days that is bound to happen eh? You talk about posters who have left, but in the past the debates/arguments you have mentioned would have just decended into name calling and petty insults. Nowadays I think the discussions are much more enlightenining with some good points coming out.

    Horses (not Findus ones) for courses though; if you don’t like them, just carry on avoiding them.

  34. Fuck off run breaker, what a crock if crap…this blog has always been repetitive repetitive. Bugger off and find your ” friends then” .

  35. Nice write up. I would just add that on the ‘positive’ side. Our lack of consistency this season in the League is more consistent with a cup winning side.

    When they play well they are a match for anyone and maybe the big occasion on a cup run will bring out the best in all of them.

  36. On the question of repetitiveness;

    The thing is, the whole football ‘industry’ is a very repetitive one. There is almost nothing about the game that you can discuss that has not be thrashed many times before. Unique events are few and far between.

    I would suggest a less repetitive activity for Runebreaker to follow instead of football, but can’t think of any 🙂

  37. So let me get this straight, spending more money wouldn’t help our cause or make us more competitive?

    So why is Citeh’s, Chelski’s and Utd’s financial clout is always stated as the reason that we cannot compete at the very top? That 4th should be limit of our expectations due to these three teams operating in the same league.

    We can’t have it both ways, surely?

    The bottom line is, whilst money cannot guarantee success, the spending of it is seen as a positive, proactive attempt to improve. As JJ alluded to above, (and Arsene on many occasions) certain players have left the club against our wishes due to our financial inability to keep them. Furthermore, certain players Arsene has clearly targeted have ended up elsewhere (Mata and Hazard to name but two) as a direct result if us not relinquishing the necessary readies to seal the deals.

    Is is crazy to suggest that we’d be a stronger outfit if we had either Hazard or Mata at our disposal instead of say, Gervinho? Arsene wanted these players but financial constraints i.e. not spending enough FAKING money, prevented this.

    In fact, the notion that a manager who year in year out gets us into the top four with a net spend of virtually zero and has previously delivered us multiple trophies, couldn’t bring us back closer to the top of the league if given more financial freedom is bizarre; that is of course if you have faith in the manager.

    Yes, 35m can get you an Andy Carrol, but as Arsene has shown, it can also get you pretty much a Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud.

  38. Maybe I was wrong.
    Maybe if we spent less and started spending Stoke or Reading transfer fee amounts we’d do better cuz clearly spending like Citeh and Celski doesn’t work.

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