Thursday, 21 May 2015

Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland: Second would have been progress. Third is not.

Match Report | Match highlights | Wenger's thoughts

I do not understand why people do not understand the difference between second and third.

"Footballistically", as Arsene Wenger would put it, there isn't any. Neither Manchester City nor us would have to go through the sadomasochism of the Champions League qualifiers that Manchester United will experience. I imagine the gulf in monetary rewards by Barclays will not be mammoth. And, considering the difference in points between us and the Citizens, anyone could argue that it could have been us at second.

And that is what does not rub with me. The fact that we could not usurp second whilst Manchester were dealing with their baggage under little pressure is worrying. It won't be nearly as easy next season. City will look to bounce back with a new manager and a new goal. United have already started on their summer business, nabbing Gundogan and Depay. Chelsea will strengthen to push on for Champions League glory.

I have accepted that Wenger will stay at Arsenal until 2017, but I hoped (perhaps foolishly) that we would at least compete for something worthwhile under him. That, other teams' incompetence and our general impressive individual qualities would overshadow Arsene's tactical limitations and his man-management flaws. I was wrong - to overtake a Jose Mourinho team or the Bayerns and Barcas of the Champions League, you need a modern, competent manager who can cover that percentile difference.

Second would have been huge for Arsenal. It's been, what, nine years since we finished runners-up? As mentioned above, it would not have made much difference on paper, but the psychological implications would have been huge. The media would have portrayed us as Chelsea's biggest foe. Potentially great players in the team would have been more recognized. We would have had the edge on most games simply because of the fear factor associated to being a title contender.

More than that, the players would have belief. Confidence in an Arsene Wenger side is key. It's what makes them play zippy football and score slinky goals. I'm not saying it would guarantee us Premier League 2015/16, but at least it would have provided the "big club" illusion which would keep world class like Ozil and Sanchez at Arsenal until Wenger leaves for a better manager.

But, no. Third and FA Cup is hardly huge progress from fourth and FA Cup (one could argue that Liverpool's decline is what pushed us up to third, too). Baby steps such as these aren't going to convince the quality players we do have that this is the place to be. I'd imagine that if Arsenal don't compete in the Premier League or the Champions League next season, Mesut Ozil would well call it a day.

And you wouldn't blame him. Say what you will about Sterling's agents having a greedy hand for wrecking his PR Image, but I'll be damned if Raheem's actions are 100% dictated by his advisers. All top players are winners. Sterling's willingness to leave Liverpool is as much propelled by the lucre of major honours as it is of making big bucks.

Arsenal can buy top players because we have the money, but we sure as hell won't keep them if we keep stalling as we are. It's been pretty clear that Arsene Wenger cannot and will not get us past the 3rd-4th threshold into elitism. If Ivan Gazidis and the board do not take action on the managerial situation soon, Wenger's last memories of managing Arsenal would be overseeing a mass exodus of players who were meant to be the bedrock of our future. It's up to the board to ensure that they do their job.

Or three years from now, we'll be looking back at this time and thinking "Why didn't we nab Jurgen Klopp when we had the chance?"

-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]

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