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Why Arsenal don’t have to spend, and will still finish in the top four

by Josh Powell | August 19, 2013

By Josh Powell | The Big Question

I am not an Arsenal fan. Nor am I a deluded ostrich in rose-tinted glasses. But, unlike many people, I believe Arsene Wenger can keep his cheque book in the pockets of his over-sized sleeping bag coat, and Arsenal can still finish in the top four of the Premier League. Yes, this season.

Piers Morgan leads the #Wengerout brigade on Twitter and he’s hardly alone. Many fans still think Piers is a bit of a knob, but in this case, a bit of a knob with a valid point.

Arsenal have not spent a penny in the transfer window this summer and that has essentially thrown a gallon of cheap whiskey on the anti-Wenger fire.

MONEY TALKS: A concise argument elegantly printed on a piece of card. Blue Peter beckons...

MONEY TALKS: A concise argument elegantly printed on a piece of card. A Blue Peter career beckons…

The way football works in this modern era, is that qualifying for the Champions League is more valuable than a FA Cup Final against Wigan. Financially there is a massive incentive and Liverpool fans won’t hold back in telling you how much they miss Wednesday nights at Anfield against the likes of Milan, Barcelona and Munich. How many fans would genuinely trade Champions League football for the Carling Cup? Unfortunately it essentially craps on the ‘Magic of the Cup’ but that’s life.

Arsenal’s record for Champions League qualification while on a budget is incredible.

  • In May they qualified for the Champions League for the 16th consecutive year
  • Over the last five seasons they have averaged 72 points, that’s seven more than Spurs and eight more than Liverpool
  • In that same time they have spent more than £50 million less than their London rivals and £10 million less than the boys on Merseyside

The reaction of the fans against Aston Villa was understandable. Arsenal have the highest season ticket prices in the league and fans don’t pay through the nose to see their team beaten by the lads that finished 15th the year before. But the reaction didn’t help Arsenal – if anything it spurred on Villa.

‘It was a big thing to get their fans against them’, Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor told the Sun. ‘We thrived on it.’

UNDER PRESSURE: A well-loved Queen song and an appropriate picture caption for Mr Wenger

UNDER PRESSURE: A well-loved Queen song and an appropriate picture caption for Mr Wenger

What Piers Morgan and his band of merry men have to remember is this squad is the same squad that performed so well just three months ago. These are the same players that went 11 games unbeaten at the end of last season and only Bayer Leverkusen and themselves got a result against Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium.

Brad Guzan made three good saves on Saturday and the referee had to make a tough call for the second penalty. On another day Laurent Koscielny would have got away with it and Arsenal may have nicked three points. Where’s your knee-jerk reaction then?

Meanwhile Liverpool have the same problem as last season of not killing off games and Gareth Bale is as eager to get out of London as a baffled Northerner stuck on a crowded tube.

  • 66 per cent of Tottenham’s efforts against Crystal Palace were off target
  • Liverpool had a conversion rate of just four per cent against Stoke
GIROUD, GIROUD, GIROUD IS ON FIRE: The Frenchman loves the second season

GIROUD, GIROUD, GIROUD IS ON FIRE: The Frenchman loves the second season

The misguided shambles around Arsenal’s attempts to sign a striker this summer hasn’t done Wenger any favours as the club go about their business with as much tact and discreetness as a rhino on acid. However, while the Arsenal board decorate make-believe contracts with pasta shells and glitter, a lot of people are overlooking Saturday’s goalscorer Olivier Giroud.

  • The Frenchman knocked in 11 goals in his debut season but there is reason to believe he will kick on in this campaign
  • He scored nine in his first season at Tours FC before scoring 21 the year after
  • He racked up 12 in his opening season at Montpellier, before recording a tally of 21 the following campaign

Injuries are a concern, and it was a poor opening day performance. But it was far from a disastrous one and the season is only two days old. Tottenham will inevitably collapse at the end of the campaign while question marks loom over Liverpool’s top four credentials.

  • Arsenal have a favourable run after Christmas – Cardiff H, Villa A, Fulham H, Southampton A, Palace H
  • And a lovely finish to the season as well – West Ham H, Hull A, Newcastle H, West Brom H, Norwich A

A big-money signing would be nice, but not necessary to finish in the top four. For the first time in several years Arsenal did not lose one of they key players in the transfer window and that is enough to keep them in the Champions League spots again.

Piers will pipe down after they see off Fenerbache this week don’t worry.

‘In Wenger we trust’ or ‘In Wenger we rust’? Vent your anger below or to @paddypower on the Twitter machine

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