Newsflash: Arsene Wenger dislikes the Away Goals rule.

Let’s be clear, this is not a new stance from the Arsenal manager. It is not sour grapes, or bitterness, or whatever allegation will likely be peddled alongside the press narrative that Arsenal have failed and just want to find excuses for that failure.

The boss has been against the double counting of away goals for years, raising it at a managers’ meeting in Geneva back in 2013, and labouring the point on various occasions both before and since. He was not trying to excuse our performance against Monaco at the Emirates, or in any way blame the rule for our elimination.

So let’s put Arsenal’s recent exit from the Champions League to one side, and examine the real question away from any sort of club bias – is it time to put the rule to bed?


Created in 1965 to avoid the need for replays, it was born in a world where away venues were intensely hostile, influencing not just the players but the referees and their officials. Fifty years on, away venues can still be cauldrons of intense feeling, but they rarely present the same safety concerns and various rules introduced by the governing bodies have restricted the ways clubs can turn home advantage into an overwhelming mountain to climb.*

(*Apart from AC Milan, apparently, who were able to relay tranches of their pitch such that it wouldn’t be deemed fit for many a Sunday League match when we faced them back in 2012.)


In the modern day where Champions League ties are played over two legs, both sides play the same amount of normal time at home over the 180 minutes – they have an exactly equal chance. So why at the end of those 180 minutes should an arbitrary rule based on when those goals are scored decide the outcome of the tie?

If you want to look at what happens beyond normal time that’s an entirely different matter – after those 180 minutes are up, one team is clearly disadvantaged by having to play the extra time (and potentially penalties) away from home.

Although Arsenal’s hierarchy don’t seem to have that much belief in the importance and benefits of a passionate home crowd, it’s routinely accepted that playing at home gives you a better chance of winning a game.

Indeed, statistically speaking there is evidence of this too – the most influential factors on the likelihood of scoring a goal are things like the award of penalties and cards.  In the Premier League since 1992 63% of penalties awarded have gone to the home side, and a similar ratio in terms of yellow and red cards given to the away side. In short, home advantage matters.

With this in mind, it’s hard to have objections against the use of away goals to rebalance that advantage once you are playing a disproportionate amount of the tie at one team’s home venue, such as in an additional period – indeed it’s what happens in the League Cup in England. But until the tie hits that 180 minute cut off point, there is no advantage one way or another, so what is the point in the rule?

The argument goes that it’s to encourage teams to attack when away from home for a more exciting game, but where do you draw the line?


If it’s no longer about rebalancing the fairness of the tie, but instead about entertainment, then that’s a pretty sorry state. Why stop at goals scored away, what about goals scored in the first half to encourage teams to go for it from the off, or what about goals scored from outside the box to encourage players to try and score screamers?

The truth is, in it’s current incarnation the rule is outdated, a relic from the 1960s which needs addressing. It’s not responsible for Arsenal’s exit from the Champions League this week, or indeed for Chelsea’s last week, but it does need changing.

Arsene probably knows that his words will get twisted to make it seem as if he’s using it as an excuse for our exit, but he’s absolutely right to speak out on the matter – it’s time for a change.

The trouble is, can UEFA see that?