A quiet week for Arsenal, so only a short blog from me inspired by events elsewhere, which we can only watch with envy. Yes the Champions League Quarter Finals play themselves out without Arsenal again and indeed without any Premier League interest. The Champions League Odds are tight and it would appear that Barcelona are marginally favourites over Madrid. We had an all English affair in Moscow a few years back and it could well be an all Spanish affair if the experts are correct.
Arsenal should be there. We had an easy group and we messed up, finishing second and getting a tough draw versus Bayern Munich was unnecessary. The result is that yet again Arsenal have not made the Quarter-Finals. Surely any top side with European aspirations should be regularly making the last 8 in Europe? This must be crucial to be seen to be competing regularly at the top table because just playing in the early stages of the Champions League means nothing. If you were a top player considering a move to the Premiership would this not be a major factor?
I would forgive you is at this stage you are thinking this is about to be a negative piece but actually you could not be more wrong. I do not think finishing 4th is a trophy and will never place that over silverware. I will however acknowledge our achievements on the main European stage. Coming out of the group for 16 consecutive years is impressive but I am thinking more of actually making an impression in the competition.
The Quarter-Finals is the business end for me. To be in the last 8 standing is a big deal and to do it regularly has to be a benchmark of success on some level. The research I undertook as a result proved interesting and enlightening. It was sort of influenced by me thinking about what factors a top player considering a move to Arsenal over another side in the Champions League would take into account? I mean there is playing in the Champions League and there is competing in the Champions League. Most players I assume would want to go some distance and pit their wits against the best? On that basis and if this is a major factor is the Emirates and attractive destination?
So who are the giants on the Champions League stage year in year out? I have chosen the last 10 competitions as a fair and valid sample. A long enough period from which to garner some meaningful results I am sure you would agree. However also encompassing 8 years in which Arsenal have won nothing, so I cannot be accused of fixing the research. I have simply looked at which clubs have made the last 8 from 2004 our glory year until 2013. A 10 year period in which by all our standards Arsenal have under achieved in the main, whilst building a new stadium and operating under the financial constraints of paying for it. The results may surprise you:
|Club||ECL Quarter-Final Appearances 2004-13|
|Monaco or yes and SPUDS sorry nearly forgot||1|
Now if you’re honest that probably surprised you all. It certainly surprised me that only 4 sides have reached the business end of the Champions League more times than Wenger’s Arsenal in the past 10 seasons. Only Barcelona and Chelsea with 7 Quarter final appearances and Milan and Bayern with 6 have reached more than Arsenal.
Now I am not suggesting this is an unqualified success story. My regular readers are aware of my views when it comes to under achievement in the domestic cups of late but to have been able to compete with some regularity in a difficult period financially in Europe’s top competition is impressive. Nor are our 5 quarter appearances clustered together in the early part of the survey period. We have reached the last 8 in 2004, 2006 where of course we reached the final in Paris, but also in 2008, 2009 and 2010 after leaving Highbury.
To sit behind only Barca, Milan, Chelsea and Munich given our circumstances can be seen as success on one level. Although not the real tangible success we all crave. However given the story the club will be selling this summer to potential signings I think the pedigree in Europe becomes increasingly relevant. It comes back to the overused cliché of buying into a project. I am certain that the financial constraints are less this close season and the financial muscle promised us when the club left Highbury might actually be flexed a tad!
So the message for the top targets this summer, assuming Champions League football is secured is this: We have competed in the latter stages of the Champions League every year in the knockout stages and we have reached the Quarters 5 of the last 10 years. Indeed we have reached the last 8 in 3 of the last 6 seasons and on each occasion with one hand tied behind our back. Well now both hands are free, we have the gloves on and are ready to punch our full heavy weight.
I hope I am right. Come on Arsenal our time is now again!
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