After the final whistle yesterday, Arsenal players and coaching crew exuded emotion associated with winning a title. It looked very awkward and a question begged to be answered, since when has finishing fourth become so prestigious? Then again, that is what a great club like Arsenal have become; celebrating fourth place finishes while new powers emerge and existing ones grow stronger, leaving them to hold on to what has traditionally become their “holy grail”: Fourth place.
Finishing fourth in a season is not in most ways special for traditional clubs like the North London side. Spurs, Malaga and Real Sociedad are clubs that might finish there and erupt in wild celebrations because no one really gave them a shot at that. For them, its called punching above your weight. For Arsenal, its called underachievementm
Evolving from being a championship winning team to top-four chasing team shows the decline of fortunes at Arsenal. While the club continues to make money on and off the pitch, trophies have continued to evade the trophy cabinet. Hugely successful teams like Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have proven on countless occassions that you can win major titles and record staggering profits at the same time. In fact, the aforementioned clubs are richer than Arsenal. So where did it all go wrong?
Winning the English Premier League for a record 20th time is not the only thing the Manchester United boardroom will be happy about these days. Earlier this year, the team unveiled its third quarter financial report, showing that revenue jumped nearly 30% over last year and taking profits to a record high. Revenue surged 29.5% to $145 million. This is a balance of being successful on and off the pitch so, there’s no reason why Arsenal whose revenue rose to £123 million pounds after announcing a profit of £17.9 million in their last financial report sometime in February 2013 should not tow United’s pattern of on field success.
Wenger still possesses the qualities of a top manager and can bring Arsenal back to the glory days but critically, the board need to lay down a benchmark by demanding better standards of the team. For what it is worth, Stan Kroenke does not look like he is passionate about the game. Cynics may even argue that all he cares about is profit. But that is not to say Wenger should not have achieved better success in recent times.
In the last two transfer windows, Wenger reportedly had £40-50 million to spend but like we all know, he has not spent much and that could be because of one reason: His pride in wanting to lead this supposedly group of players who lack the “necessary quality” to win a title. It will be his own way to shutting up the critics but until that happens, critics will keep going for the jugular and deservedly so.
Should the scenario change in the boardroom and trophies are demanded of Wenger, a faliure to deliver may well result in a sack and that won’t be the end of the world for Arsenal. Yes, stability is great and all but in today’s football, firing and hiring also gets results. Chelsea won the Champions League only a couple of weeks after Andre Villas Boas was sacked and replaced by Roberto Di Matteo; PSG won the Ligue 1 this season under Ancelotti who took over Charles Kamboure in the middle of last season; and Atletico Madrid have enjoyed huge success in just over a year after replacing Walter Manzano with Diego Simeone who has gone on to win two major European trophies and the Kings Cup beating eternal rivals Real Madrid on the way.
In the end, its a shame to see a side of Arsenal’s history celebrate like they did after defeating Newcastle almost as though they had won the title but that is what they have become and will remain unless something drastic changes at the Emirates this summer.
Ivan Dougan is a sports pundit on various media. He’s also a football writer and the Media Officer of C.O.D United Football Club, Lagos. He tweets at @ivanlotti