by Daniel Snowden
As an Arsenal supporter, this Saturday’s Champions League Final (between two non-champions) leaves me with somewhat of a quandary: Who to support?
First, a bit of background: I am sure you are all aware that Chelsea needs to win the final to get a place at Europe’s top table next season after their Premier League campaign fizzled out and they finished 6th. However, England can only send four teams into the competition and if Chelsea win it then the team who finishes 4th in
the league drops down to the Europa League. In this case, it would be Arsenal’s arch enemies, Tottenham Hotspur who would miss out, with all four English teams actually going directly through to the group stages in this instance.
So who to support? Firstly, the case for supporting Chelsea: If Chelsea win, then Spurs do not get to go into Europe, which would give meany Gunners a summer full of glee. At one stage, when Spurs were two nill up at the Emirates they were 13 points clear of Arsenal and were still being talked about as outside bets for the title. For them to finish empty handed (no one actually wants to play in the Europe League) would be utterly hilarious.
All those “mind the gap” comments we had to put up with for months, all the talk of a “power shift” in north London. After all that talk, for them to finish without proper European football would be utterly brilliant. It would also serve to keep a bit of distance between the two clubs, as without Champions League football Spurs will not be able to attract top players and they could even lose a few of the current squad, while the lower income will also help to stop them moving higher.
Other than that I can not think of a single reason to support Chelsea. I know some people say you should support the British teams when they play in Europe, and that might have been the case 10, 15 years ago, but things have changed. I sit by the corner flag at the Emirates, and am not adverse to letting opposition players know what I think of them when they come for a corner. I spent a lot of time and effort disliking the players of one of our main rivals, and that is not going to change just because of who they are playing.
In addition, I hate the thought that Europe’s top prize can just be bought, which is what Chelsea would have done, despite their somewhat restrained spending over the last year or two. The Premier League has already gone that way, first with Chelsea and now with City buying the title, but so far that has not really happened in the Champions League, although of course a lot of money has been spent by the winners, but so far a sugar daddy club has not succeeded.
I also don’t want Chelsea to be the first London club to win the Champions League. Of course I want that to be my team, Arsenal, although I admit that ambition could be a few years off, especially if clubs such as City and Chelsea manage to find a way round the Financial Fair Play rules and vast sums of cash continue to be pumped into the clubs.
Failure to win will also prevent Chelsea’s participation in the tournament next year, and in the same argument as outlined above, that will impact the club’s ability to attract top players in the future, as well as hitting the club’s revenue, an important factor ahead of FFP.
On top of this, Tottenham’s participation in the Champions League qualifiers could be enormous fun, especially as they are unseeded and could have to face the 4th team from Spain (free spending Malaga, another sugar daddy club) or Germany or the 3rd places team from France or Italy as well as a host of tricky teams for Europe’s second
tier of leagues. Recall that Spurs were 3-0 down to Young Boys Bern a couple of years ago and although they managed to get through and then acquit themselves more than adequately, the same is not guaranteed to happen again.
So, overall, I think I will be cheering on the German’s and then hope that Spur’s make a mess of the qualifier, leaving Arsenal as London’s sole representative in the Champions League next season. Then, surely, the rest of the capital will get behind us, right?