Why 3rd place is massive for Arsenal
Not so long ago on February 26th, 34 minutes into the North London Derby, Arsenal were on course of drifting 13 points behind fierce rivals, Tottenham Hotspur in the race for 3rd spot after Emmanuel Adebayor had put them 2-0 up via a penalty – fast forward to the 90th minute and Arsenal won the game 5-2 to move 7 points behind their rivals. A horrid run of form from Tottenham since then, bundled along with a fine run of form from Arsenal have resulted in Spurs conceding the 3rd spot to Arsenal, who are a single point ahead of Spurs with nine games left to play. Quite an astonishing comeback in the space of 24 days and after a dreadful start of the season, if Arsenal keep up their brilliant form, 3rd place would be exceeding expectations.
But just how important would 3rd place be? It is an improvement from last season’s 4th place finish but other than that, what other benefits do the Gunners get to reap? A few weeks ago, Arsene Wenger claimed, “The first trophy is to finish in the top four.” Laugh all you want at this statement but it’s true – majority of Arsenal’s transfer kitty is determined by the revenue gained from qualification to the group stage of the Champions League. Add to this, world class players would be attracted to Arsenal more with lure of Champions League football than say, Liverpool (assuming they play in the Europa League next season).
These last few weeks have all but cemented Arsenal’s place in the top four but after the 1-0 win at Goodison Park against Everton, Arsenal are now in 3rd place. If Arsenal were to finish the season in this position, it would mean many things:
- More revenue gained from finishing at a higher league standing.
- Guaranteed automatic passage to the Champions League group stage with no need for qualifiers against possible strong European opposition at the beginning of the season.
- £25 million in revenue for making it to the group stages allowing for better season and financial planning.
- Ability to attract players without waiting until after the Champions League qualifiers.
If you remember the calamitous summer of 2011 where nearly everything went wrong, finishing 3rd last season would have eased the pain and pressure Wenger faced. His two best players in Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas wanted out when Wenger thought they’d stay and the task of finding replacements such as Juan Mata was made even harder due to the uncertainty of whether Arsenal would make the Champions League. It was only until after Arsenal defeated Udinese, that they were able to lure the likes of Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos.
If Arsenal were to finish 3rd this season, transfer negotiations in the summer with top players could be dealt with earlier as with the guaranteed revenue from the Champions League, it could play a huge role in contract talks for possible signings – £25 million is a large amount when considering add-on bonuses, agent fees, future clauses and player wages. Along with that, with the slight chance Arsenal had to face a qualifier and get eliminated, it would affect the morale of the squad and the crucial start of the league season immensely – but finishing in 3rd would help avoid qualifiers.
After reportedly sealing the transfer of FC Koln’s talisman, Lukas Podolski for £10.9 million, it seems the club has now learnt from it’s mistakes last summer and as a result, is doing business as early as possible which is a good sign. Hopefully, Podolski would be one of many new quality faces to join Arsenal in what would be a summer of strengthening as opposed to last summer – one of replacing.