Arsenal look seriously off the pace to qualify for Europa League football, let alone the UCL. But not qualifying for Europe might be just what this squad needs.
In 2014-15, Liverpool finished 6th. In 2015-16, they dropped to 8th. Since then, they have not failed to make top 4, and they’ll end their 30-year title drought in two weeks, if that. They made the UCL final in the 2017-18, and won it in 2018-19. It might’ve taken five years to accomplish, but that’s a rebound—and a rebuild—worth noting. And they didn’t need the Europa League to do it.
So what did we learn today, class? We learned that you don’t have to qualify for Europe to be successful in a given year, especially when it’s more likely to be a distraction and a source of injuries than an actual boon.
Jurgen Klopp managed that 2015-16 side. It was his first year in charge, and since then, he’s done incredible things. He was handed a sinking ship and told to make things work, asked to implement his vision. An immediate turnaround wasn’t the goal. The goal was to provide a stable foundation for a future build. Which he’s now done, with great success.
He was able to complete his takeover because the club was far more invested in domestic success than international success, and poured their budget into supplying that demand. That’s a focus Arsenal needs to have now. It doesn’t matter that we can beat Slavia Prague and Stade Rennes. It doesn’t matter that we might lose to Olympiakos. The Europa League doesn’t matter because it’s not the priority. We need to regain league standing, domestic standing, and to do that, we can’t have the European distraction.
And that domestic focus factors into transfers as well. Klopp offloaded dead wood and aging starters where he could, and sold promising players where he couldn’t. Luis Suarez left Liverpool the year before he arrived—hence that sinking ship—and he sold Sterling to garner the finances to start building his dream team, a trick he used to even better effect with Phillipe Coutinho’s sale to the tune of £145 million a year later.
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Mikel Arteta has been handed a similar situation, Our beloved club is sinking, and he’s the man to right the ship. So for starters, he will have to sacrifice something good to gain more in the future. Europa League football is the first on that list, but the next is superstars.
I love Aubameyang, and Lacazette, and Ozil, but they’re a drain on wages and have to go. Furthermore, players like Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and Lucas Torreira, while potentially integral to the future of this team, will also drum up a decent fee, and we need money above all else
Investment in our future is key. It will take the right combination of star power and youth to establish a successful rebuild, but the key is that players cannot have peaked yet. Players like Thomas Lemar, Willian, and the aforementioned Coutinho are not the right solutions.
Mane, Firmino, and Wjnaldum weren’t global superstars when they signed; their exposure to Jurgen Klopp’s tactics and growth as players has contributed to their meteoric rise to stardom. Andrew Robertson is a perfect example: signed from Hull for a measly £8 million, he transformed energy and workrate—effectively pure potential—into a truly dynamic, all-around left-back, who is now considered among the best in the world.
Investment in potential is the key. Investing in talent is the hallmark of a failed high-profile transfer, because talent is nothing without the ability to develop and succeed. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool did it exceptionally well. Now it’s time for Arsenal to do the same.
The last component to Klopp’s success was the support of the board, specifically the owner. He used his full backing to take control of the transfer and development process, and we’re witnessing the result. Stan and Josh Kroenke should take notes.
In order for Arsenal to be a valuable and profitable investment for our beloved owners, we need to actually make money, and the only way to do that is to succeed, something we currently are not doing. And in order for us to succeed, they have to invest. No more self-sustaining business model, no more financial impotence. We need owners who support the mission of the club, or else this downward slide won’t stop.
Teams like Leicester, Burnley, and Southampton have all experienced major descents down the table after a failed Europa League campaign, with the Clarets actually getting relegated the season they finished in the Top 6. Those teams may not be the “Big 6,” but they’re the teams who are on our level at the moment. Learning from their failure will be the key to rising above them, back to where we belong.
Frankly, Europe League is a distraction. It’s an injury machine—not something we need more of—and it takes away from our domestic success—not something we need. Period. So let’s start this rebuild from the ground up. No Europa League, no problem.