Barring disaster, Arsenal look set to finish third this year. The first and second spots remain to be contested between two equally odious outfits (frankly, who cares?), so that leaves the battle for fourth.
Spuds and Citeh are in the driving seat, but Villa are in their slipstream and even the Dippers have a chance, although if it’s a Formula One race for fourth place, they’re the ones on the bicycle (a stolen one, natch).
The only interest I have in this contest (apart from the usual visceral desire to see failure and humiliation heaped on Sh*te Hart Lane) is that I want the outcome to be the least damaging to Arsenal’s future prospects. So what is that outcome? I have heard different opinions expressed by fellow Gooners, the most popular being a late dash by Aston Villa. Others would take Citeh over Spuds. But some, through gritted teeth, even say they would rather it was the Spuds than Citeh.
Well, in truth, every right-thinking Gooner should be hoping against hope that the fourth spot is secured by those pikeys-who’ve-just-won-the-lottery, Manchester City FC. Here’s why:
Whoever gets fourth will get the chance to pre-qualify for the Champions League. Yes, it’s possible that any of them could drop out at this stage (and Citeh, Spuds and Villa all share low Uefa ratings, risking a tough draw), but we cannot rely on this. They are all teams with good squads and they will reinforce like billy-o if they get the chance of CL football.
It follows, therefore, that the fourth place team can expect to get to the group stages, where six guaranteed games bring in a lot of new revenue. Meanwhile, having qualified for the CL, they will have been able to attract significantly better players during the close season. They will be a stronger team in the EPL as well as in Europe, and more likely to be our competitors for the league title and the cups as well as the CL.
So who do we want to get this leg up? Not Spuds, that’s for sure. They already spend like drunken gamblers every year anyway. And if they can attract players with the carrot of Champions League football they will really splash the cash. Mystifying though it may be to us, there is no doubt that some world class players may actually want to go to N17 if it means playing in the CL. We cannot have our historical enemy in this position. If they finish fifth again this year I think the blow to their morale will see them really struggle again next year and our dominance in North London will remain unthreatened.
What about Aston Villa? For those in favour of Villa for fourth, the reasoning is simple, and relies more on emotion than cold calculation. Martin O’Neill is deranged, Agbonlahor was obnoxious when they beat us at the Emms last season but, on the whole, we don’t hate Villa. In fact most of us probably think they’re a well run club. But so far they have not been at the ‘top table’ of English football – and we don’t want them joining it now. If they fail to secure fourth (and all the extra cash and top players that go with it) they will stay where they are – a good team who are not a long term serious threat.
As for the Dippers, well, unless something dramatic happens on the ownership front they are facing a period of decline – one that might only be halted if they get CL football next year. However, their chances of getting fourth are so slim it’s not worth wasting time on them.
Which brings us to Citeh – and here’s the rub. If they DO get fourth, they will spend a fortune and buy some of the best players in the world and be real contenders for all trophies next year.
If they DON’T get fourth, they will spend a fortune and buy some of the best players in the world and be real contenders for all trophies next year.
Fourth or fifth makes no difference to Citeh. In terms of being bankrolled they are the richest club in the world and nothing is going to stop them spending for success.
Sure, there will be some players who will not go to ManCity if they’re not in the CL, but many world class players will be prepared to join them because of the money and the near certainty of CL football the following year. They’ll seriously abuse the cheque book to recruit players like Torres.
If Citeh finish fourth, we have the new Big Four: ManUre, Chavs, Citeh and Arsenal.
If Villa, Spuds or the Dippers finish fourth, we risk the creation of a Big Five: the four CL qualifiers, plus Citeh.
From a selfish Arsenal perspective I want to be competing against only three other power-houses in the EPL, not four. It’s as simple as that.