Finishing the season in the top four can be a funny thing. While there is no fourth-place trophy, it is something that 16 other Premier League teams wish that they could have accomplished. But fourth place is not a goal for Arsenal. It is the absolute minimum. And that means that we as fans have very high standards.
In the 2012/13 season, three teams were fighting for third and fourth in the table up until the final weekend. And we cheered and celebrated when we beat Newcastle to secure our Champions League spot. Meanwhile, the team that narrowly missed out was not very happy about it.
And so the debate began. Pundits and bloggers filled column inches by arguing whether or not Arsenal players and fans should have celebrated after beating Newcastle. After all, it's not like there was a big shiny cup involved. So we asked our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada what they would prefer: a trophy or the Champions League.
Question: How important is a Champions League berth to you compared to winning a trophy -- but finishing fifth?
Maybe I overreacted, but I lost sleep over the thought of finishing fifth. Qualification for the Champions League, especially this season, meant everything to this Arsenal team and its importance cannot be understated. Through the adversity over the past few years, to the seven-point gap, Champions League qualification has remained a constant and so much was riding on it.
For more than the a decade-and-a-half, Arsenal has been involved in Europe’s most prestigious club competition. The money that the Champions League brings in, from both television contracts and sponsorships, fuels the club and the competitiveness of the event helps attract players to the Emirates Stadium. Having to turn on my television on Thursdays and pretend to be interested in the Europa League would have hurt my heart.
Looking forward, qualification for the Champions League for next season gives Arsenal a foot to negotiate on when looking to bring new players into the squad as well as retaining the players currently on the team. Arsenal will have a lot of momentum and a high morale throughout the pre-season after earning 26 of a possible 30 points during the run-in and anything less would have made for a tumultuous summer.
While the club surely aspires for more, qualification for the Champions League is the minimum. With finances in check and a fourth place finish secured, I am truly looking forward to the possibilities that the 2013-14 season can bring and catching up on my sleep.
I have to admit that I initially shared Josh’s trepidation over the possibility of finishing outside the top four this season, but now that Arsenal has actually achieved top four status I have to say I’m particularly excited about the platform that Champions League qualification presents us with for the new season.
Whereas finishing in the top four in seasons past represented nothing more than maintaining relative parity with the top clubs in the league, this year I believe it presents us with a viable opportunity to successfully compete with several other clubs who are undergoing transitions as they look for new managers.
Like most other Gooners I suspect, in the short term I would have preferred silverware. But you’d have to say that being able to attract top talent with Champions League football as we challenge clubs that are going through significant transitions presents us with a long-awaited chance to once again challenge for the Premier League title, and you have to think if Arsenal can do that in any meaningful way this season, that can only help pave the way for further success in future seasons.
The thought of finishing fifth is a scary proposition for me, not because of the loss of the Champions League, but instead finishing below Spurs and the thought that missing the Champions League would not inspire the change that many fans want. Throughout the season many fans in Canada were passionately speaking their mind and stating that finishing fifth would force the club to start spending more. While the rationale makes sense, Arsenal does not spend what it does not have.
Finishing fourth was integral to Arsenal for reputation and legacy. However, I disagree with Josh and many fans that Arsenal need to finish in fourth to attract top talent. Manchester City were a mid-table club a few years ago and bought Champions League quality players. Tottenham have been in the Champions League as much as Manchester City has in recent years and they attracted several players that were rumoured to be Arsenal targets. I do not think that qualifying for the Champions League is what it takes to attract top talent, it takes ambition.
This past season Arsenal showed some ambition with their purchases, but more needs to be done, and players across Europe can see it too. Could this year’s end of season finish be the catalyst to better things, yes, I think so, and I think Josh does too.
Get behind the team, folks. Things are looking up.
The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Arsenal Football Club or Arsenal Media Group.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 6 Jun 2013