Thirteenth trophy in as many years enough to secure Wenger’s job

The second biggest trophy in England, after winning the Premier League, is qualifying for the Champions League, said Arsene Wenger yesterday. Obviously, finishing third doesn’t get scribed into the clubs record books whereas winning the FA Cup does, but I had to agree with what Arsene was saying; that playing in Europe’s top competition on a regular basis is more important than winning domestic cups …. For now anyway!
Wenger is right, that qualifying for the Champions League thirteen years running is an excellent achievement. I remember the days when John Carew plagued Arsenal in a Valencia strip, and passing the quarter-final stage (sometimes the group phase) was a difficulty. Qualify for the competition enough though and one day you will be successful. That day nearly came in Paris in 2006 against Barcelona, although from then on I never believed Arsenal would be just an average team in the European Cup again.
How has this been possible though? Firstly it’s down to consistency, what Wenger is forever asking of his team. This season some of Arsenal’s results have been far from it, but since the Frenchman took charge of the club and in the larger picture, Arsenal have been steady enough, to the point where winning the league title is a possibility on the opening day of every season. Granted it hasn’t happened for Arsenal over the past five years but usually the Arsenal fan is (somehow) an optimistic fan at the start of each new campaign, and winning is always a prospect even if the odds are stacked against us.
Consistency wouldn’t have been feasible without Arsenal’s shrewd business approach. No, serious business approach I’ll say. Reading Four Four Two magazine yesterday, there was one letter sent in by a Newcastle fan mocking West Brom for never pushing on in the Premier League and viewing their many promotions from the Championship as nothing more than preparation for relegation the following year.
West Brom in some ways are comparable to Arsenal, as you’ll never find them in the kind of debt many others around them face because of the fine running of their club which always looks to balance things right. Mostly this fine tuning is for an undeviating future at the highest level possible, which for West Brom is bobbing above and beneath the top flight. For Arsenal, it’s always being at the high-brow end of English football.
The day you don’t handle things sensibly is the day you fade away, just as Leeds and Southampton did although both look to be on the bounce back. Reading might be a better example whose run in the Premiership was short lived. Again though, with the right manager as they now have in Brian McDermott things are looking up. Without the right manager and the wrong business model to accompany it a lowly league place in the Championship is likely. Following this trend will almost certainly be Hull, whose wage budget is so ghastly and over the top that dropping out of the Prem and losing it’s fortunes is sure to cripple them in a way West Brom have never allowed for.
The danger of life without Wenger would be losing all consistency and dropping out of the top four. Being a Liverpool fan must be excruciatingly difficult knowing the Europa League is as good as it gets next season, and as an Arsenal fan I can’t imagine a season without hearing the Champions League music on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. That song is literally music to my ears and the sound of many memories that I just couldn’t do without.
Another manager could come in and win the FA Cup but finish fifth in the league. It’s alright wanting cups but I’m sure when it came to the end of the season and Spurs were drenching Harry Redknapp in champagne laughing at their north London rivals, then there would be many lagered-up Gooner’s baying for somebody’s blood. This isn’t to say Wenger couldn’t push on domestically and still give more effort in the FA Cup, but in spite of the freeloaders lurking around Arsenal with all their millions spent, still they couldn’t pip us and nor did I see them reaching the final this season.
Still, as time goes by without silverware, simply qualifying for the Champions League will not suit. For now, doing it all on a meagre diet is fathomable, but when the Emirates has paid for itself and no more excuses can be given for maturing players and the strangulation of transfer funds, the time when Wenger’s project is in full bloom and in place, will be the time when the pressure for Wenger in really on. Only then will it be justifiable to question his place as manager even if we can criticise some of his handling this season.
I didn’t go to the Emirates yesterday despite being offered tickets from three different parties. It seemed people were trying to get some money back on theirs and those being offered were reluctant to depart with the cash. It’s not the first time the cameras have picked up empty rows of red seats and I’m certain it’s a matter of a poor effort shown from the players over the last month rather than the results. Arsenal fans look to be entertained and if this was the case in recent weeks regardless off bad results perhaps the final day would have been a more united event. Arsenal fans aren’t greedy, and they will always show up, that is, if the players bother to make an appearance likewise.
Usually I’d be pestering people for a ticket and hand over desperate amounts of money to get inside the ground. Instead though, travelling to Darlington to watch Dagenham and Redbridge secure a League Two playoff place was a more appealing way to spend (less) money. I was looking for some excitement to end this football season and just knew it wouldn’t come at the Emirates even if the score read 4-0. Call me a bad fan although I suspect some of you readers streamed it too or found a pub; after all, there were empty seats!
Far away in the north east of England grown men cried as the Daggers secured their highest ever finish in the clubs history. There were jubilations, and it’s not like Arsenal fans havn’t had their fair share this season: Arshavin’s tracer at Old Trafford, the turn around at Anfield, the trouncing of FC Porto, late victories against Stoke, Hull and Wolves, the double over Bolton, Cesc’s cameo against Villa and the two goals in two minutes against Spurs. I’ll never forget the comeback against Barcelona when I lost a whole pint in celebration only for it to be refilled when a fat Arsenal fan couldn’t keep his own balance and unknowingly droped his beer into my glass. It was a lovely alcoholic merry-go-round.
For now I’m totally behind Wenger and thank him for making Arsenal a regular flyer in the Premier League. Watching Darlington put it into perspective a little, whose ground is only eight years old and probably good enough to host Champions League games. Two sides to their 25,000 seater stadium remained depressingly empty and faded by the sun as rubbish rolled across the grass. Only 2,700 watched on. The Quakers were relegated months ago and now have some dark days ahead financially maintaining the Northern Echo Arena. Sadly, they had been sentenced there by the lavish and crazy visions of men apparently deemed fit by the Football Association.
It’s a small example, but is it not resonated throughout all English divisions? I’ll sleep well knowing this practice would never occur under Wenger. I’ll just have to write my own history books though, with page thirteen a picture of Wenger holding aloft the Champions League qualifying trophy. To next season, where maybe we can go one better.

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