Arsenal claimed second place in the Premier League this weekend, but does it really matter?

An impressive 4-1 victory against Liverpool at the Emirates and a Manchester City loss away to Crystal Palace (the latter of which I actually predicted in my column a few week ago) left Arsenal free to claim second place in the Premier League.

Many of us rejoiced, surprised at how far we’ve climbed and the fact that many pundits didn’t even think we’d make the top four this season.

However, what does coming second really mean? Is it really better than coming third, or even fourth?

Champion’s League for another season

The first obvious advantage to coming second rather than fourth is the definite qualification to the Champion’s League.

The competition showcases the pinnacle of European footballing talent; the best of the best. I feel a huge sense of pride for my team when they walk out on the pitch and that famous theme tune starts playing; it never gets old.

In recent years, we’ve been hovering around the fringes of the competition, either having to qualify for the group stages early in the season, giving us even more matches to play at a crucial time, or only just narrowly squeezing through.

Finishing second feels like we’re supposed to be there; not just as if we’re someone’s plus one at a party.

Money, money, money

According to TSM Plug, second place does get slightly more prize money than third and fourth. However, the difference is only a couple-million pounds, which can be useful but in no way ground-breaking for a club like Arsenal.

What can be a considerable amount of money though, is the amount given for Champion’s League qualification. €12million  (around £8.8m) is gifted to any team, which qualifies for the group stages, while additional sums are distributed for winning or drawing games and further progression throughout the competition.

Although we’ve consistently succeeded in qualifying since Arsene Wenger joined us, the security of not having those extra matches in the opening stages of the season and already having a bit of money in the kitty will be a huge weight off our shoulders.

A long time coming

I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone but the last time we finished this high in the table – considering we hold our position, that is – was the 2004/05 season. The previous year we won it with our team of Invincibles. A whole decade has passed since we genuinely contended for the Premier League title.

There were times when we were close; the 2007/08 season springs to mind when, by February, we were three points above Manchester United at the top. However, Eduardo da Silva’s leg-shattering injury happened that month and, without one of our key players, we dropped points, leaving us to finish the season in third.

The league wasn’t the only thing we lost that season as Eduardo never fully returned to his absolute best and we eventually sold him to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010.

Back to our best

The importance of just challenging for silverware is vital and this is why second is better than fourth or even third.

When broken down objectively, finishing second may be on par with finishing elsewhere in the top four, if you qualify for the Champion’s League that is, but just to be in contention, to show we’re up there and ready to seriously battle it out for the title next season is hugely encouraging.

I imagine it as a race: would you rather win silver or bronze? Of course, ultimately you’d want to win gold, but the next accolade in line is silver or second place.

There may be no second place trophy but with the position comes hope and promise of better things to come. It shows improvement and intent. We’ve picked up points in big games – something we’ve failed in recent seasons. Surely the only direction we can go now is up?

The next step is to go on and win the League next season.

Although second place is better than recent years, we have to build on this. Being runner-up is fine for now – a good foundation – but, ultimately, not what we should be aiming for in the long run. We need to take stock of our shortcomings and challenge them head-on, which I’m sure Wenger and the rest of the team are fully aware.

If we hadn’t dropped silly points to the likes to Swansea and Hull, we could even genuinely have won the League this season and I could never have predicted being in this position at the beginning of 2015.

However, we could drive ourselves insane with ‘what if’s’. What’s done is done and what’s important is that we learn from this, retain the FA Cup this season, and take the League by storm in the next.