Years of chasing Bayern or Barcelona players around for a sight of the ball has gotten boring.
What’s been the point?
Well. Upwards of £30M into the #SIGNALLTHEPLAYERS pot isn’t bad.
Without Champions League football we wouldn’t have signed Mesut Özil, or then Alexis Sánchez, and it is players of that quality who can and will elevate us to the level of Europe’s leading sides.
We built a new stadium and with our business plan – no matter what Ivan Gazidis has said – I think it was more or less essential we qualified for the competition each year in order to sign top players on the requisite wages as soon as now.
The extra revenue has been vital for the club, and we wouldn’t yet be free of the financial burden that has been The Emirates Stadium had we not qualified year in, year out.
Now the stadium can serve to produce money for us.
In 2014 our revenue was the eighth highest in world football (fourth – of course – in England) but relied more heavily on matchday revenue than any other leading European club.
A huge 33% (£100.2M) of our revenue was from matchdays.*
Our new commercial deals close the gap on the top teams but merchandise sales and ticket prices are huge in our business plan, and we would be way further back without the aid of Champions League football over the past 10 years.
*all figures courtesy of the Deloitte Money League
Are we just in the Champions League to make up the numbers?
Clearly not. That isn’t enough.
We are The Arsenal and we should never be happy just to be amongst the elite of Europe. We have to strive to be the best team in Europe.
But how far away have we actually been?
Considering we did build a stadium and then made a profit from transfers between 2006-2013 – not as far as almost anyone else would have been, and not as far as everyone seems to think.
In recent years we’ve been slightly unlucky with the draw and come up against Europe’s elite as early as the Round of 16.
2010 (in the quarter-final) and 2011 we faced Barcelona – who were the eventual winners and then holders of the competition.
The same fate befell us in 2013 and 2014, then against German giants Bayern Munich.
Again they went on to win the competition.
In those four ties, against the teams who were at that point the best in the world, we were still in the tie in the final moment of the second leg on two occasions.
Once (In Munich in 2013) we only went out on away goals.
The year in between we faced AC Milan and capitulated in the first leg so badly that winning 3-0 in London was nowhere near enough. It was the only time in recent seasons that we won the group and weren’t exactly handed a kind draw.
Back in 2008 we deserved to beat Liverpool in a quarter-final, with some bad decisions from the referees (and ultimately one from Kolo Touré at Anfield) costing us a place in the last four.
We had already knocked out the holders that year, defeating AC Milan at the Giuseppe Meazza, and the squad was littered with unbelievably talented young players.
Bar – perhaps – 2008, we haven’t truly been close to European glory since making the final in 2006.
This period has been a tough one, where limitations have caused our expectations to change.
Now is the time to change them again.
Arsenal’s new era
We don’t have to sell anyone anymore.
In fact, we can now attract world class players – footballers worthy of gracing any stage, and desperate to shine on the biggest stage of all.
Everything seems different now.
Again we have failed to win our group but have for once been afforded a very winnable fixture – one we are actually favourites for.
A quarter-final used to be expected, but has become a rarity – this year we have avoided Europe’s true powerhouses and have a great opportunity to put our stamp on this competition for the first time in a number of years.
But even if we beat AS Monaco, can we win it?
Last season Jürgen Klopp said we could (after we had defeated his Borussia Dortmund side in Dortmund) as long as avoided Bayern Munich.
But we didn’t. Again.
This year I wouldn’t say we can win it, not really, but we are not that far away.
For all the money they’ve spent Manchester City haven’t managed to out perform us in this competition over the past few years and now we’re in the process of adding both quality and depth to what is already a balanced squad.
Or can we?
You don’t have to be the best team in Europe to win the Champions League. You don’t have to have the best players. That’s the beauty of knockout competitions.
We are good enough to beat anyone at home, and performances in Munich have – like the one at Manchester City in January – demonstrated our ability to soak up pressure and approach a game sensibly.
The past few years may have been frustrating, but have been important for the club, and now our years of austerity after the stadium move are over.
Nights like the one in Munich or the win over Barcelona in 2011 are some of the best we have had in recent seasons.
This season offers a real chance to make a mark in Europe; ensuring famous nights like those are anything but occasional.