by Daniel Snowden
One of the main reasons given for Arsenal’s shaky start to this season was the last minute, supermarket-sweep style transfer policy, with the board leaving it late for two reasons. The first was the drawn out, protracted saga of Fabregas and Nasri’s departure and the second was that Arsenal did not secure Champions League football until August the 25th, after beating Udinese in a two-legged qualifier. Once this was
done and dusted, Arsenal could go after the calibre of player required to battle on all fronts. Even then results were still disappointing for some time as the new squad needed to bed in.
Much of this could have been avoided if Arsenal had not slumped in the final stages of last season, limping into 4th place having been well positioned to finish third. It could be argued that it was this, and the need to play the subsequent qualifier, that made Arsenal’s summer so difficult, as it was obvious that both Fabregas and Nasri were going to go regardless.
Thus, to avoid another nightmare start to next season, it is imperative that Arsenal finish the season on a high note, winning all the remaining matches to ward off Newcastle, Tottenham and to some extent Chelsea. After the weekend’s results it is very much in Arsenal’s hands but given the failure to win in the last three matches
(although that Wigan loss does not seem so bad now in context) nothing can be taken for granted.
The latter of the chasing trio has also added an extra dimension to the race for Champions League football, as if they manage to overcome Bayern then they will automatically take one of England’s four spots, no matter where they finish in the league. Therefore, if they finish outside the top four and claim victory the 4th placed team will lose out. Out of the three remaining contenders for the two remaining spots
(lets just assume it is Manchester 1st and 2nd) Newcastle looks as if it has the hardest run in, having to play a suddenly in form Chelsea and a motivated Manchester City while Spurs perhaps has the least taxing.
But to reiterate, it is still totally in Arsenal’s hands, and the opportunity must be grasped for another reason: Robin Van Persie.
As has been well reported, RvP’s contract is up in the summer of 2013 and Arsenal will be in the same position this summer as they were in summer 2011 with Nasri; get him to sign another contract OR sell now to get something in OR let his contract run down, with the player able to go on a free transfer next summer.
Clearly the first option is the one that Arsenal would like to peruse, and that would be a much easier sell on two fronts: one, guaranteed champions league football. Two, Arsenal would be able to attract better players this summer, increasing his chances of winning not only the Champions League, but also having a decent crack at the Premier League. This will be RvP’s final big contract of his career and it will be much better if Arsenal can offer him not just cash, but also the chance to finally win something, and with him as captain to boot.
But for all that to come to pass, Arsenal MUST finish in third place, otherwise it could be a stormy summer ahead.
Lastly, there is also the issue of backroom staff. Pat Rice, Arsene’s right hand man since 1996 looks set to end his illustrious career this summer and Arsenal may choose to select a new number two who could one day be the number one. Again, like players, attracting a top candidate would be a lot easier if they have guaranteed Champions league football, as well as more extensive and higher quality squad.
Arsenal finish the season with a home game against Norwich this Saturday and then face a now potentially manageress WBA on the final day at the Hawthorns. Six points would secure third place and given that Chelsea and Newcastle need to play each other, a win and draw should secure at least fourth but as outlined above, fourth might not be good enough. Two cup finals ahead it is then.