With the announcement of a European Super League, many fans have been scrambling to know what became of the Arsenal they fell in love with?
Have Arsenal irreparably burned their bridges with the big competitions and have they ensured that the beginning of the end has started?
The adoption of the project seems to be pretty widely unpopular. While Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have been ranting and raving on Monday Night Football, some of the biggest names in the sport have already spoken out against the idea.
The adoption of an “American model” whereby the biggest and best (i.e. richest) clubs play against each other every single week may appeal to some, but for the average fan, it not only cheapens other tournaments, but also makes attending certain matches near impossible.
The Premier League is expected to take a vote as to what happens next for the six Premier League teams involved. While it is true that the Premier League rules stipulates that a 75% majority rule is needed to enforce any changes, this may be usurped, given the special nature of the circumstances.
If this were the case, it’s tough to see how Arsenal will remain in the league after this. While the big six have spoken openly about how they wish to remain a part of the Premier League, it seems the Premier League do not share their view.
If the decision to expel Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur does indeed lie with the rest of the Premier League, then it seems unlikely that they will be remaining.
The remaining clubs in the Premier League, already uncomfortable with the monopolies created by clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea as well as the increased revenues for larger clubs in the lucrative TV deals that often leaves the remaining fourteen members of the league out in the cold, waiting for the top six to play.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted fans from attending games, this has meant that the teams have been able to enjoy more money from TV broadcasters as all games are now on TV, though this will likely end when fans return to stadiums.
All in all, it seems as though Arsenal will struggle to convince any of the other clubs that they should be remaining in the league and given that the big six are so often considered to be the troublemakers in the league, it seems as though Arsenal may well have burned a bridge or two there.
Champions League & Europa League
While the Champions League does not presently present an issue for Arsenal, their upcoming two-legged tie with Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the Europa League does.
UEFA are expected to gather to decide the fate of the remaining European Super League Clubs in their respective European competitions. UEFA seem to want blood however, with Aleksander Čeferin, President of UEFA particularly angered by the proposals and who already seems to be pushing for elimination from the competition.
In the case of the Champions League, it would likely mean that the trophy is automatically awarded to Paris Saint-Germain as Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid would all be expelled, while a Villarreall vs. Roma final would be the outcome in the Europa League following Arsenal and Manchester United’s expulsion.
UEFA are bound by their own rules and regulations and may struggle to expel the teams or grant them a place in next season’s competition without considerable help from their lawyers.
The current sporting-merit of the competitions should be upheld, though in the case of Arsenal, it seems to be a “at what cost” situation.
If Arsenal are banned from European competitions as of next season, then winning the Europa League holds no real merit for the team aside from being a trophy to win. While the focus of a team like Arsenal should always be to win a trophy, it seems impossible to see how Mikel Arteta would be able to motivate his players to focus on the task in hand.
Part of the reason for winning the Europa League is that it grants an automatic buy-in to the Champions League the following season, something Arsenal would be very interested in. The issue is that Arsenal would now no longer have their place confirmed and it would simply be a trophy for the cabinet that holds no real significance for the team, even as the club’s first-ever major European trophy.
European Club Association (ECA)
This is where the damage seems irrevocably done. Arsenal’s Chief Executive Vinai Venkatesham left the ECA on Monday morning, a full forty-three days after being appointed to the role.
Though participation in the European Club Association is not strictly necessary for participation in the Champions League or indeed the Europa League, it is still comforting to know that Arsenal have a seat at the top table and that the club’s views, thoughts and opinions are being heard.
Venkatesham’s decision to step down was in thew wake of Juventus Chairman, Andrea Agnelli’s decision to step down from his position in UEFA, leading Čeferin to state that he was clearly surrounded by snakes in the organisation. This particular act of betrayal seems to have stung Čeferin worse than anything else and will likely close the door on Arsenal returning to the ECA any time soon.
It seems that the only way that Arsenal could ever realistically return to the ECA is if Venkatesham were to either step-down or allow another Arsenal executive to take his place, though UEFA are unlikely to opt for this strategy either, since the power-brokers at Arsenal, such as Stan Kroenke, have already burned the bridge.
And so brings about the great question, “where do we go from here?”. The 2020/21 season has been a pretty unmitigated disaster from start to near-finish all season with only the Europa League providing the occasional respite.
As for the next few days, we all know who will be presented before the media to account for this. Stan Kroenke, dubbed “Silent Stan” by the media and his various franchise’s fanbases certainly lives up to his alliterative nickname by never commenting to the press.
It seems unlikely that Venkatesham or Edu will speak to the media, which means the burden falls unfairly onto Mikel Arteta’s shoulders. As Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp discovered to his cost in their 1-1 draw with Leeds United, the players and the manager are the ones who will face the criticism.
The absence of fans from stadiums proves to be a blessing in disguise for many of the power-brokers at Arsenal, as they do not have to face fan antipathy, whereas Arteta and his players will likely have to answer to angry players outside stadiums and to barked questions from the media and verbal lambastings from Gary Neville.
As for the players, the anger felt at an already uninterested board is likely to increase. The FIFA and UEFA sanctions seem hellbent on preventing players to represent their national sides in international competitions and also seems to grate in that they were not informed or consulted prior to announcement.
For players like Kieran Tierney, this would be a particularly huge slap in the face, especially since Scotland have qualified for the European Championships for the first time since 1996 and a major international tournament for the first time since 1998.
As for transfers, it seems Arsenal may have one or five bridges burned there too.
Teams outside of the ESL are unlikely to want to do business with teams in the ESL, such is the opposition from clubs for the proposal.
The other issue is the money. Since Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez has mentioned how much money the clubs in the league potentially stand to make, it seems as though an ESL tax will be added to any players that Arsenal wish to buy.
It has long been spoken of Arsenal’s interest in signing Tariq Lamptey of Brighton & Hove Albion, for instance, however, given Brighton’s position in the Premier League and Arsenal’s new found wealth, it seems a price-tag that is already rumoured to be as high as £40m, could be doubled in Arsenal’s case to take advantage of the team’s added revenue.
In terms of players joining Arsenal, it seems unlikely that players would want to risk a potential international ban in order to play for a team that has little-to-no chance of winning the competition they helped to set up.
As for players leaving the club, it could be even harder to convince players to remain and equally to sell them. Players like the aforementioned Tierney may wish to jump ship in order to represent their national side, which would force Arsenal’s hand. Meanwhile, selling players deemed surplus to requirements could prove tricky if clubs are unwilling to line the European elite’s pockets further.
Mikel Arteta is not due to speak to the press until later this week. Though the furore surrounding the European Super League will have likely dissipated somewhat and will likely be less intense than Jürgen Klopp was forced to face on Monday night, it will still be a very unfair posistion for Arteta to be placed in.
Arteta is seemingly left with two choices. Resign or stick with the club.
Resignation would likely favour Arteta and would probably be a damning blow to Arsenal. Arteta is very highly rated in the game and would likely have very few issues finding a job, though his chances at a high-profile club like Arsenal seem slim. For Arsenal, Arteta’s departure would be a catastrophic blow as Arsenal look to try and establish themselves among the best in the business once more. Arteta is a dynamic and exciting coach who holds much sway with players and losing him would demand a huge cultural reset, which many first-team players may not be interested in.
If he remains, he risks looking either complicit or at least supportive of the idea. This is Arteta’s first job and one he takes very seriously and his love for the club may be mistaken for a desire for a comfy position at the club. Remaining would certainly benefit Arsenal, but have they done enough to merit such loyalty from the Spaniard?
Arteta will have to answer questions over the league and will also be tasked with selling the idea to the players, since Vinai Venkatesham’s more corporate demeanour is unlikely to convince many in the squad. Which leaves he and other managers in a very unfair position. Arteta has also reportedly faced issues over transfers, with the pursuit of Thomas Partey being undertaken at the expense of Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, who Arteta reportedly preferred.
Stan Kroenke has never been a universally popular figure at Arsenal. The American businessman’s reluctance to financially support former-manager Arsène Wenger when he needed him most has often been a point that many Arsenal fans have been unable to look past.
While Kroenke has certainly clawed bag some credibility in recent years with his purchasing of Arsenal’s stadium debt and reportedly funding the signing of Thomas Partey from fellow European Super League side Atlético Madrid, this has destroyed what small goodwill he had built up.
Kroenke has reportedly been left stunned by the reaction to the news of a European Super League, which shows his distance from regular football fans.
His desire to set this league up, something he has reportedly been heavily involved in, will likely make him an even more villainous figure around the Emirates Stadium than he already is.
As many have likely already figured out, barring a truly insane offer to purchase the club from the businessman, Kroenke will never sell Arsenal and while he is owner, he will call the shots and if past instances are anything to go by, he will continue to do so, regardless of the fan’s opinion or support.
In conclusion, this is a dark chapter in the Arsenal story, one that flies in the face of everything the club has built and everything they stand for.
The distance between owners and fans has never been more pronounced than it is right now. It seems Arsenal have reached a point of no return with almost all of the people who matter and have forever tarnished their reputation as the club that stands for what’s right and what is in the best interest of the sport.
Gone are the days where Arsène Wenger would call for a rematch because of an unfairly scored goal or the days of playing by the rules set forth to ensure that big clubs no longer take advantage of smaller clubs or donating money to Sutton United after an FA Cup clash.
The club’s handling of redundancies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the announcement of a European Super League seems to show that the Arsenal of old has all but disappeared and been replaced by an empty, soulless organisation that places financial gain over sporting merit and that, above all else is unacceptable.