Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said that the Gunners can “cope” without playing in the Champions League. Many Arsenal supporters are upset with the ownership, and Ivan Gazidis’ comments will only fuel more discontent towards the board.
It is very unlikely that Arsenal will be able to finish in the top four this season. No Premier League club has ever started so poorly and rebounded to claim a place in Europe’s top competition. Ivan Gazidis said he is not worried about missing out on the UCL (quotes obtained from ESPN):
“We would rather qualify for it but we have a really sustainable model that can cope without it. Not just cope, but we can do well and compete. It would be very foolish to build a business model that relied on being in the Champions League for perpetuity and I don’t think any clubs do that and, if they do, then they probably aren’t being run as responsibly as they should be.”
The problem is not whether Arsenal will be able to survive financially without the UEFA money; it is whether any top players will consider signing for Arsenal if they are not in the competition. For example, Arsene Wenger loves to buy players from the French League. But if Arsenal are not in the UCL, then maybe a player like Eden Hazard (who plays in the Champions League with Lille) would rather stay in France than join a struggling London club.
Under Arsene Wenger, the Gunners have not failed to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. The emergence of Chelsea and, more importantly, Manchester City has made life much more difficult for Arsenal. People say that Arsenal finishing below the Champions League spots is unthinkable, but the idea of the Gunners finishing outside the top two also used to be unimaginable.
As an Arsenal supporter, I do not think finishing outside the top four would be the end of the world. With the lack of debt and the new stadium, it is unlikely that the Gunners will settle in as a mid-table club in the coming years. The puzzling thing has always been the fact that the money is there. Stan Kroenke, who owns about two-thirds of the club’s shares, and Alisher Usmanov, who owns around one-third, are two of the wealthiest shareholders in England.
While the two billionaires are fighting for each other’s shares, Arsene Wenger has come under criticism for the recent poor results, and rightfully so, but sacking Wenger would not come close to solving the problems at the Emirates. No Arsenal fan would like to see to a merry-go-round of managers as the club falls behind the other elite teams. Wenger may not be perfect, but sacking him mid-season would only cause more turmoil.
Arsenal’s self-sustaining model is admirable and intelligent in the long run, but football fans are not known for their patience. Gooners expect the fifth wealthiest club in the world to win trophies and compete at the highest level of European football. Ivan Gazidis, on the other hand, does not think missing the Champions League will have a big impact on the team’s ability to compete. There is a major disconnect between the board and the supporters, and, as usual, the fans are on the right side of the argument.