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Arsenal May Have Missed Out On Champions League Football, But It's Not As Bad As You Might Think

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Arsenal May Have Missed Out On Champions League Football, But It's Not As Bad As You Might Think

The season ended in some pretty brutal pain for The Arsenal. They were on course for a monumental end with Champions League football and fell at the final hurdle. So near and yet so far.

To compound the misery, it just had to be their fierce rivals who made it in their stead. Though if you flipped the positions of Spurs and Manchester United, Arsenal fans would feel far less sick over the final few games. Though that might actually be better for Arsenal in the long run that it played out the way it did.

Had Arsenal finished in the top 4, they’d have access to an extra £50m+ in funds as well as the bragging rights. It would have given this squad the unexpected rocket fuel needed for the progress to be expedited. Now with the risks taken in January through the offloading of some bodies and zero backfilling, the thinking was top 6. Getting Europa League was the aim. The closer the culmination of the season arrived, the realisation set in that this team could actually go beyond the top 6. In fact you could see the desperation in both Mikel Arteta and the squads’ eyes as the Champions League dream faded away. However, let’s imagine for a second that Arsenal actually did enough to get there, how would things have unfolded? The scenario for them was clear, all good things right now, but what would have happened on the other side of Seven Sisters road?

Antonio Conte will remain at Spurs next season (Alamy)
Antonio Conte will remain at Spurs next season (Alamy)
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Antonio Conte may well have departed and some of the big hitters there would have been sold. Great, right? No. Yes it would have been hilarious to view from an Arsenal standpoint and they would have received the gift of the perfect summer, filled with much banter and bragging. Though Spurs would have actually had to fix things with major surgery. You could see them appointing someone such as Graham Potter on a five to seven year project and actually fixing the fact that they have been a perpetually choking club. That would be far more painful in the long run, as they would have their own version of the project that Arsenal are going under right now. As we all know there is some steady progress being made with the Arteta project, but it will require time and patience. Spurs’ ambitions are slightly lower than Arsenals’ and therefore would be more likely to be patient with a new project such as that, whereas there is a pressure cooker environment within the Emirates where the following season will be a defining moment. Champions League or bust for Arteta is the next step, nothing more nothing less.

Now, the fact that Conte has remained there means there are around 12-18 months left of him trying to do his thing. The storm needs to be weathered for sure, as they will be a dangerous outfit next season, but there is an opportunity for Arsenal to continue to grow and wait for the inevitable Conte explosion to occur. Everywhere he has been, even when successful, he leaves a la the Joker walking away with a hospital on fire in the background.

Conte is known for leaving clubs behind (The Dark Knight)
Conte is known for leaving clubs behind (The Dark Knight)

Now the real questions that need to be asked are, can he go and win the Premier League or the Champions League with this Spurs squad, even with investment? Can they go toe to toe with Liverpool and Man City? I’m not sure. The worry is the FA Cup and League Cup trophies and of course the ability to land Champions League football, which they of course have the capabilities to do.

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Lots going on for sure, however if the intensity of the Premier League coupled with the far superior competition could well see Arsenal progress nicely under the radar with all the drama (hopefully) happening on the other side of North London.

You can totally understand fans who are upset that Arsenal didn’t get there as well as fans who say that the clubs’ expectations are allowed to be adjusted throughout the course of the season. The thing is Arsenal just need to worry about themselves and focus on what the key next steps are. The recruitment will of course be tougher without the lure of the Champions League, but if there is a similar level of investment (actually a little more than that to backfill the squad) and it is carried out as smartly and effectively as last summer, this team can really can push on. Around 7-8 players more are needed to create depth as well as generate competition for places in the first XI. There is a lot of work to be done over the summer. It’s the most important window of this project, if indeed it is going to be a success. And the owners must know that. Spending big to save a season is one thing, but spending big to back a long term project is more poignant as Arsenal won't want to start from square one all over again next season.

Gabriel Jesus has been heavily linked with Arsenal (Alamy)
Gabriel Jesus has been heavily linked with Arsenal (Alamy)

The key is the right investment on the right profile of players (isn’t it always!?), and if this happens as it should, there is no reason why they can’t get back into the top four. Next season really does feel like do or die for Arteta because of the Manchester United and Chelsea rebuilds that will occur as well as the big investment we are likely to see at Newcastle. In reality, for all 3 clubs a big jump towards their respective projects and success will be beyond next season, but after that there are likely to be more big fish in the sea to compete against. It’s why it’s imperative that Arsenal are competitive and make the leap next year. The danger of getting stuck as the plucky underdog is very real if the necessary surgery doesn’t take place.

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A huge summer awaits, and whilst the underlying feeling of the season is disappointment right now, bigger and better things await.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Arsenal, Gabriel Jesus, Mikel Arteta, Antonio Conte

Mitesh Lakhani
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