Arsenal at the top of the 2nd tier in world football ….. the litmus test

The last few days posts have thrown up some interesting debating points about the current squad and how we feel about it. It has allowed us all to express our preferences for certain players and line ups, and where we may need to strengthen and with whom.

I have often indicated that I am not sure that we are quite as far forward as we could be, and also for where I think we should be looking to be. The many positives of being top of the league, being the best team (points wise) in 2015, and having some truly world class players at THOF e.t.c, have been slightly offset by some dis-jointed un-Arsenal like performances.

This is why in my opinion we are currently positioned somewhere near the top end of the second tier in world football. It is perhaps easier to say European football, because although there are some fine teams emanating from other areas of the globe, most notably South America, the powerhouses of world football are in Europe.

So what constitutes the first tier? For me that includes Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and….err….that’s it IMO. So only 3 teams truly stand ahead of us. We are probably joined at the top end of the second tier by 2-3 of the other big EPL sides (despite a dodgy period for some), and the likes of PSG, Athletico, and Juventus. Dortmund and the Milans could also be strongly considered.

Until recently, due mostly to financial restrictions, I feel we have remained in the second tier but have been more mid second tier. Staying there at all was quite a feat in the circumstances and was down to Wenger’s excellent job at keeping us near the top during those austere years. Similarly I feel we have also been in the first tier in the past, when the likes of Vieira, Henry and Dennis roamed the pitches in red and white, but we are not there now. Only 3 teams are, but we are also not far away in my opinion.

I feel we are on a precipice currently, sitting at the top of that second tier with the mid second tier down the slope behind us and the first tier just over the top of the precipice. Do we sit down and stay where we are, or could an unforeseen mini land-slide cause us to slip back down if we do this, or should we push on over the precipice and march on into the first tier?

How then do we do this and what could stop us doing this?

It is not all about just buying “x” amount of players for “x” amount of money, although purchases will very likely be required to move on. Sometimes it is also about recognising what we already have and using it effectively and in the right way, but I am not always sure that we do this.

In my mind I have a litmus test that I always use. I am not saying it is foolproof but it centres on looking at the 3 teams in the first tier, because they are there for a reason and we likely need to match what they currently do to join them at the top table. I call it the BayernBarcaReal test.

Essentially it involves going through each position in our team and asking the question “would that player currently get into any of those 3 teams?”. I would tend be assessing this as 1st choice players only or your personal favoured 1st 11. The answer may be no for some players but they then could be an excellent choice as a back up or squad player, which all top teams need anyway. Sometimes, with certain players, the question is not so much would they get into that team but would they get into the team in that particular position?

What do you all think, a good way of looking at it or not? Even if not, indulge me and do the litmus test and tell me your results.


63 Responses to Arsenal at the top of the 2nd tier in world football ….. the litmus test

  1. Rasp says:

    Thanks GB, this is the BIG question. How do we get to the next level?

    Sadly it is out of our hands to an extent. We had the 7th biggest turnover in world football in 2015 behind Man City and the chavs – who are currently showing that it is not all down to money. But those with the most money will prevail in the long run.

    Man City should be far and away the top team in the EPL. They have almost limitless money and successfully managed to thwart FFP. They have invested millions in the local community have built unrivaled facilities and developed the infrastructure to support this.

    Which just goes to show how important the manager is to the success of the team (unfortunately Pochettino is currently proving this point at the moment). We can expect the usual fight between the big spenders over strikers in the summer but perhaps the most important battle will be won by the team that gets Guardiola.

    Currently I see Arsenal as similar to Athletico Madrid in relation to our ability to compete with the super rich clubs.. Can we join your big 3 on a permanent basis or just compete when the biggest hitters have a hiccup?

  2. MickyDidIt89 says:

    That took me two extra eggs to read, GoonerB 🙂

    Wow, great stuff.

    First thing on my mind is that Barca and Real both cheat in terms of bank loans and stuff. I think!

    If I then make a wild stab that somehow Bayern also cheat, and we know City here do, then I think we’re currently Top 🙂

    Tehn I’d say we have only Mesut who’d get a place in any of the others. Not that I know who plays for any of the others, but that doesn’t matter. Like defenders 🙂

  3. Big Raddy says:

    GB. Fine stuff.

    I am in a huge minority insomuch as I do not want AFC to be in the top echelon of clubs. Why? Because those clubs always win and make their leagues uncompetitive.

    I like that we falter – it reflects life.

    I never know when my team take the field what is going to happen – sometimes we are breathtakingly brilliant and sometimes bewilderingly poor.

    As to how we can become a European powerhouse: Better youth programme, better scouting, better buying policy (another TH would be good), and a much, much better fitness/health programme. Had we a fully fit squad we would already be 10 points ahead and on course to the title.

    I like the litmus test. Cech, Ozil and Ramsey would get into Barca/Real. Ozil and Sanchez into BM and Real.

    And Bellerin would get into all three.

  4. GoonerB says:

    Short break between mundane worky matters.

    I don’t look at if our players would replace players at those clubs but more if they needed a player in that position would our current first choice be of the required quality.

    Personally the players I think that we have of the required quality in their position would be Cech, Bellerin, Kos, Monreal, Sanchez, Ozil.

    Ramsey is of the required quality IMO, but only in the right position, so on my litmus test when I ask would he get into those teams playing from the right and the answer is no. As such I feel we ourselves shouldn’t therefore be entertaining it, unless dire need (injuries) dictates it.

    I love Le Coq and I think he also has a strong case and Jack and Santi wouldn’t look out of place either in those sides, but in Jack’s case again the big question would be “in what position?”.

    Man City I would imagine are only officially ahead of us in the rich list due to overly top loaded deals from the UAE, so there wealth will be largely artificial and only really reflects their sugar daddies wealth. That is sadly a significant factor though.

    I have put a lot of names forward on the litmus test so in reality I am very positive about our current position. The key for me is in being ruthless enough to look at the positions that fail the litmus test and upgrade them. I also agree with Rasp that who gets Guardiola could have a major say. I still think we can be in the top tier even with all the financial doping going on around us.

  5. Shard says:

    Hmmm. I don’t think we’ve ever been in the top tier of world football, except probably in the 30s.

    Even when we had Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira, we were dwarfed commercially (and beaten in terms of trophies) by ManU, and in Europe we didn’t prove ourselves enough to be considered the real elite. It’s not just the CL title alone. Porto and Dortmund are not European elite even with their CL wins. I don’t think Chelsea is considered that either. But, we need that CL title (and consistent league titles) to announce our arrival to the top tier because it would be the culmination of everything we have built. That is what will put is in the top tier.

    So, how to achieve that.

    I don’t know. I don’t think I agree with this litmus test. A player needs a certain environment to succeed. Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, none would be the greats they are if they were somewhere else. Why should we worry about what those other clubs do? We do things our way, and it is inevitable now, after all of Wenger’s and the club’s work, that we will win the CL sometime soon.

    We’re now one of those clubs which is too big to not win it. Remember the mighty Barcelona took till 92 to win their first, and then didn’t win for many years, now look at them. We’re approaching the critical mass. We’ve got a great stadium, the money, the players, the youth system is being developed anew, and we’ve got the manager to do it. Basically we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing, because the past decade has all been about getting us to the top tier, and despite all the noise around, it has been progressing on schedule.

  6. Gööner In Exile says:

    Raddy makes a very good point about the highs and lows of being the club we are. Everyone seems to want to turn us into some football monolith an unstoppable force, but we have to remember that’s not what we have been ever at least not for a length of time over 4/5 years. This is probably our longest spell where we have been 4th/3rd etc without dropping down to midtable for a few seasons. We are spoilt as fans and that is reflected in the fact that so many expect more, for some its not enough to win more games than you lose and draw, beat 88 other teams in England, we need to beat 91 other teams and it would appear we need to do it every season otherwise media and fans start questioning why the manager and board are doing it at all.

    When Arsene took over we had a lot of similarities with Spuds, yes we’d won the league under GG and his magic hat, but we had also previously suffered 19 years without winning the League, and like the Spuds FA Cups were our only chance of glory, and what glory it was, that the cup has somehow been devalued when it used to be one of the biggest games in the World is still a little bit bewildering to me.

    If we won the trophies every season we wouldn’t have such amazing memories of the moments that won us the leagues and cups.

    But whilst GoonerB you suggest that we should look at our first xi and compare it to Madrid or Barca individually I say shouldn’t we compare as a team?

    Take the great Barca side with Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Villa, Alves, Busquets, Puyol etc. Yes they were individually good players with a couple of outstanding ones, but their brilliance came from what they did as a sum of their parts, and that was greater than any individuals position in top ranked players, there were better midfielders in the world than Iniesta and Xavi, there were definitely better centre backs than Puyol and Pique some were in the Premier League, but the team didn’t need to change the players because they had a playing style an understanding.

    We have a squad that is maturing has many good players and a couple of greats, would Santi get in many of the other top teams in the PL or Europe? Maybe not, but for us he is magic because we suit his style, the same may be true of Hector and Coquelin and even Giroud. The BFG is not going to get in many teams either, but for me he is such an important cog to our play and attitude on the pitch that I wouldn’t sell him, not until we can find another leader who is as calm and measured.

    We actually outstripped Chavs from an income perspective this year, mainly due to Revenues on match day with £100m a game compared to their £75m per home game (60,000 vs 35,000 is not the same ratio as £100m to £75m either they’ve got better merchandise or they do ask more of their fans than the media would have you believe). The only way to increase Revenue in reality is through sponsorship, and that takes being a world wide brand, and like it or not we are not as big as United in that regard and probably not as Liverpool, however consistently performing at the top of the game, with a decent public image is earning us the incomes that we have desired for so long, so maybe a couple of title wins and our incomes will be up there, but we will have to keep it up and keep it up and they will respond so we will have to spend again. Is that really the best thing for the fans?

  7. RA says:

    A litmus test for me is, can GB write a comment or a Post without focusing exclusively on players — or not?

    Well this is definitely a GB Post, and none the worse for that. 🙂

    My own litmus test is this – looking at the moon, saturn, venus and the like, it is obvious to me that they are spherical and flat. OK?

    So, is it really likely that the earth is the only one that is round? No, of course it is not – so I am joining the flat-earthers, on condition that they join me in pushing the three clubs you mention in your post, off the edge of the world – and we will reign supreme.

    We are demonstrating perfect synergy! 🙂

  8. Eddie says:

    GB – excellent post!! Congratulations!!
    I am thinking about the answers, not easy…………

  9. mickydidit89 says:

    Made a comment on your boys 71 shirts
    There’s a really nasty pong in the air. And it’s me wanting my first ever arsenal shirt
    I’m out in the fresh air, so here’s hoping the head clears

  10. Eddie says:

    too many eggs

    GiE – boys are delicious, George is just edible 🙂

  11. Eddie says:

    GB – the answer I came up with is none. Yes, none of our players could get into the top tier, as defined in your terrific post.

    But we are not far behind them and on occasions we can beat them. I therefore concluded that the question is flawed 🙂 One cannot make such comparison, it is the whole team that matters. Football is not a sport of individual achievements, but of the effort put in by 11+ individuals. You can also throw into the mixture luck, morale, tactical bollix and then compare us with the “top tier” .And then we lose again 🙂

    I think it is time to accept that we are some way behind the best

  12. Rasp says:

    That’s what I like about blogging, Raddy and GiE make a very good points and have convinced me – where’s the fun in being be the best all the time, especially when that success has been bought? It’s about the journey.

    There is no way the Board, ownership or manager are going to go down the ‘buy success route’ – we’d have let Usmanov invest if we wanted that.

    Arsenal’s austerity era over, but the mega rich era is upon us. It is a much greater and more rewarding challenge to achieve honours under a self sustaining model.

    We can afford the 50m players and we may only be 1-2 players off being the best – as opposed to the 3-4 of a few years ago. I say viva Leicester, viva Athletico and viva Arsenal 🙂

  13. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Just an irrelevant thought

    How many Leicester players would get in the City team, and Leicester are ahead of City

    Teamwork matters

  14. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Hiya Rasp
    Just seen your viva Leicester comment

  15. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Taxi summoned
    That’s me

  16. chas says:

    A fine post matched by some fine comments.

    I also agree about not wanting to turn into BayernBarcaReal.
    I’m quite happy with 4th (like Kroenke, eh, crystals) 🙂

    Maybe if we turn your litmus test around, it’ll reveal more about the players in those top three teams.

    Firstly Bayern

    This is probably down to my ignorance but I’d have
    Cech for Neuer,
    Koscielny for Boateng,
    Sanchez for Robben (wouldn’t want him anywhere near the Home of Football)
    and Mesut for Muller.
    I don’t really know much about Thiago, Martinez or Benatia, so can’t compare them.
    They outclassed us at the Allianz earlier in the season, but we managed to gain a majestic victory at home.

    Real Madrid

    Cech for Navas
    Monreal for Marcelo
    Kos for Pepe
    Bellerin for Carvajal (largely because I don’t know him)
    Mesut for Kroos
    Sanchez for Benzema (assuming Alexis is at centre forward 🙂 )
    I never like Modric either because he looks like Gail Tilsley


    I’m not sure I’d have any of Barcelona’s defence
    Rakitic, meh
    Neymar wouldn’t cut it on a freezing Wednesday night in Stoke. 🙂

    In conclusion, aside from the financial doping of all three teams, we’re not that far behind. I’ve never liked it when we were favourites to win things. There’s so much more satisfaction in winning against the odds.

  17. Gööner In Exile says:

    Damn right Chas….it’s why the last two FA Cup Semis and finals have been so painful, although Theo and Alexismade the last one a tad less concerning, not that I saw it but listening on a dodgy radio reception in deepest darkest Cornwall was hard.

    I also think Chas you highlight with your analysis of the others that it’s not necessarily the best players, or the most great players, it’s the balance. That’s my point about BFG, he brings balance.

    But I’m sitting listening to a playlist containing Donovan, London Grammar, Trombone Shorty and Elle King….which I guess shows how I think 🙂

  18. Gööner In Exile says:

    Micky it’s not my first shirt I long for it’s the chevron away kit…..lost somewhere never to be seen again….I’ve always suspected foul play…it was sore try hard shirt to miss….last seen at Highfield Road 🙂

  19. MickyDidIt89 says:

    And you were doing so well Mr Gooner in Exile

    There was me thinking you were responsible for their stylish outfits. Kind of confirms a rather long held suspicion of mine and that is Mrs Exile has the style 🙂

    I can hear the conversation now: “Gooner (for you are on first name terms), no way are the little darlings wearing those nasty plastic tops with words written on them, like you do with those long shorts of yours. It’s the ’71 or nothing”

  20. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Norwich were 3-1 up on Pool
    Now 3-4 down

  21. Big Raddy says:

    Stoke complain that Leicester are using towels for long throws 😀 😀

  22. Gööner In Exile says:

    Micky here’s the truth about the 71 kits.

    Me : what do you want to wear George?
    George : Gooner Gooner
    Me : ok
    Mrs Exile : he will freeze in that, put a vest on or a long sleeve shirt underneath.
    Me : we can get the long sleeve one
    Mrs Exile : no different those shorts are made of paper
    Me : I have an idea 🙂

  23. Gööner In Exile says:

    Thankfully there’ll be no chance of a father son pairing as Chas proves that the retro 100% cotton is for the gym goers amongst us.

    The nylon/polyester mix are far more generous for the less active among the faithful 🙂

  24. MickyDidIt89 says:

    the less active ha ha ha superb 🙂

    4-5, now that is a good game

  25. Gööner In Exile says:

    Didn’t ever think I’d say this…..Come on Stoke!!!

  26. Big Raddy says:

    Rubbish results so far and MC likely to roll over WHU. We have to win tomorrow.

    But for now, we can point out what a fine team Southampton are 🙂

  27. GoonerB says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Just to pick up on a few areas.

    Firstly I tend to agree that it is a bit more fun not just being permanently top of the tree. It is hard to see it that way during difficult periods but it does then make the successful periods so much sweeter.

    Having said that the reason we undertook the Emirates stadium project was to eventually allow us to regularly dine at the top table. Economic crashes and sugar daddy clubs have somewhat muddied the waters, and maybe still do, but I still feel we are in a position to be in that elite now.

    Maybe we are a bit spoilt and should be happy with next tier down, but the one thing I always come back to is that I am not so sure that players like Sanchez and Ozil will be. I think they will have greater ambitions than this, and there are other top clubs that will try and get to that first tier and will want these 2 (and possibly others) if they can get them. If you buy more ready made top level players like those surely it is because you have an ambition to push into the elite, and also I would have thought this is how it was sold to them when they joined.

    My concern is, that if we don’t show that final ambition now, that we will lose these types of players and then it will be very hard to convince that level of player to join us in the future, if we become perceived as a club that is happy to only go so far.

    I do disagree with not looking towards how those teams operate, and in what type of system, and with what types of players. We may do things our way (or the Arsenal way) but is it the best way? Are there things, that are achievable that we could do differently, more like those teams and push on a level as a result? Why shouldn’t we use them as a blueprint?

    I think the main point of my post was to say that we are only just short of pushing into that 1st tier arena in my opinion. I consider it a dotting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s, but obviously I could have easily under-estimated this.

    I know we can’t compete in every sense. For instance I would love Bale to come to us but we can’t (and shouldn’t) compete with those that are prepared to do £90m deals. I would far rather look at another high quality left footed right sided midfielder, like for instance Yarmolenko at say £25m. He would bring an extra dimension, quality and balance to the squad and be the type of player that I feel would push us more towards that 1st tier without trying to compete with the others for Bale. So really I am saying it is doable even with the money no object clubs lurking around.

    As GIE says the sum of the parts is as important as (if not more so) than lots of individual Galacticos. That is a very relevant point but then it leads me to the question of are we actually making the most of what we have, so that the sum of our parts is balanced and finely tuned?.

    I know many will disagree but personally I don’t feel we always use what we have in-house in the correct way at the right times. Examples I would use would be using Ramsey on the right and playing a slower striker against a high pressing team when pacy alternatives were available. Too many times for me we have looked the superior team on paper but looked very dis-jointed and second best during the game.

    I do think we have many players that are 1st tier players (sorry Eddie). For example I am not suggesting that Bayern would replace Neuer with Cech, but if for some reason they did not have, or had lost Neuer, then I think they would consider Cech of the required quality to be their number 1 keeper. I feel that type of assessment applies to a few of our players as well.

    Shard I also think we have been a top tier team (1st 11 at least) but did not capitalise at the time. One factor may be that back then we maybe had a more finished 1st 11 but didn’t have the squad depth we have today, and it really is the 1st 11 that I am looking at with this current squad. A team that we could send out against any of those top European 3 regularly and stand toe to toe, and I do think we can do it with 2-3 key purchases and better use of what we have.

  28. Big Raddy says:

    GB. Some fine points made.

    I would argue that we already dine at the top table but not in the central seats-

    And from what you imply we are back to the mythical missing 3 – a top CB, a top DM and a right sided attacker 🙂

  29. LB says:

    Great post and some excellent comments.

    The litmus test is a good bit of fun but I don’t agree that that is the way to actually determine whether we have ever been in the top tier, personally, I, like Shard, do not feel that we ever have and for the same reasons. Not that that really bothers me although unlike others I would like Arsenal to be and believe we should be but that will take some time as the top tier is governed by how much money the club generates.

    Real Madrid earn over one hundred million more that we do every season, with that kind of extra spending power they will continue to be able to sign the Ronaldos and Bales of this world and until we can then we will just have to continue picking up their cast offs.

  30. Eddie says:

    …. not that we would ever want Bale of course

  31. LB says:

    No, not at all, never, ever………………maybe, perhaps, no, no, perish the thought, say ten Hail Dennis’ and five Our Arsenes LB for even considering it.

  32. Eddie says:

    ha ha ha 🙂 🙂

    What is the main stream of revenue for Real now? Still the government? Or sponsors?

    Barca until just few years ago didn’t have sponsors, how did they do it??

  33. Rasp says:

    Man city currently losing 2:1 so it may not be such a bad day for us after all ……

  34. Big Raddy says:

    I would pay €60m for Bale. He is a fantastic player.

    Come on West Ham … don’t bottle this

  35. Rasp says:

    I’d like Gareth Bale …. what are the negatives? 🙂

  36. Eddie says:

    song almost scored

    rasp – his face?

  37. Big Raddy says:

    Bum. MC scored

  38. Big Raddy says:

    I would stop Bale doing that ridiculous heart thing with his fingers but that is the only downside.

  39. Eddie says:

    aguero scored both goals. Forget Bale, i’d have Sergio in a heart beat

  40. Eddie says:

    I thought Mark Noble was well over 30. He is only 28, but has been with the Hammers for 11 years!!! Blimey, does it still happen in football?

  41. LB says:

    It does when you’re average, meow.

  42. LB says:

    The Barcelona sponsorship story is long but very interesting.

  43. LB says:


    Scroll down to see the wealth table.

  44. Eddie says:

    i commented on the wealthiest clubs’ table the other day. i was surprised to see chavs behind us and Totts at 12th.

    Tell us Barca and Real good night stories please 🙂

  45. Eddie says:

    have the clocks go back or something?

  46. Eddie says:

    the Leicester thing is becoming ridiculous. They took Stoke apart yesterday, it could have easily been 5:0. And only one yellow to the Orcs (Crouch). They are such joy to watch, fast, organised, top team work. Scary, very scary stuff

    It has to be Ranieri’s magic.

  47. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Cannot speak for others but for BR it was a drunken night a very late/early finish. Serves me right for trying to keep up with 30 year olds. I should know better.

  48. Eddie says:

    no fool like an old fool 🙂

    Mind you, your “the morning after” PMs tend to be very good

  49. Eddie says:

    ManU booed off the pitch again 🙂
    Mourinho wrote a 6 page love letter to MUFC 🙂 This is better than “Only Fools and Horses”

  50. Big Raddy says:

    I haven’t decided whether it should be a nostalgic PM, a vitriolic PM or a short but sweet PM with some sort of tactics nonsense thrown in.

    Better get started when I finish this flagon of coffee

  51. Eddie says:

    vitriolic. full of hatred and bile aimed at the dispeakable ones. Target JT

  52. MickyDidIt89 says:

    My sincerest apologies for sleeping. Unforgiveable.

    Blimey 9:23. I will be alone 😦

  53. Eddie says:

    …you’ll never walk alone, alone……

  54. Shard says:

    where’s the movie quiz? 🙂

  55. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Ah Eddie, thank you

    A 4 o’clock ko on sunday is very nice for the armchair fan, as we can pack in most of the daylight hours at this time of year

    Some gardening and some viola for me will pass the time

  56. MickyDidIt89 says:


    The Saturday night effect is unpredictable amongst the debauched

    Just look at the state Eriks in 🙄

  57. Big Raddy says:

    Who are you calling debauched? I am a fine upstanding member of society (with regular lapses)

  58. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Post it Erik, post it. I have a tactics theory for todays game and it’s about to burst out

    Hope you saw my comment thanking you for string advice

  59. Shard says:

    Something rotten in the state of Denmark, Micky?

  60. MickyDidIt89 says:

    ha ha Shard, very good 🙂

    Also, never a truer word. Erik is a classic example of how the good upstanding reputation of an entire nation and its proud 1000 year history can so easily be tarnished beyond repair

  61. MickyDidIt89 says:

    The fingers are being twiddled

  62. Big Raddy says:

    I thank you for such unswerving support 🙂

    Not sure about the PM …. it may be a little aggressive but nonetheless it was what was in my mind

    Here goes….. There is a New Post

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