x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Premier League: Arsenal at a point between profit and winning

After another season of rumbling discontent, Arsenal now look likely to qualify for the Uefa Champions League, explains Jonathan Wilson.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, right, Kieran Gibbs and the rest of their Arsenal teammates have been doing a lot of celebrating as of late.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, right, Kieran Gibbs and the rest of their Arsenal teammates have been doing a lot of celebrating as of late.

Chelsea looked exhausted in losing the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday and face away trips to Fulham and Liverpool in the coming weeks all the more testing given they have won just two of their past 12 games away from Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham Hotspur are going through an all-too-familiar wobble, having won just one of their past seven with Manchester City next up.

Arsenal, somehow, have pulled the trick they keep on pulling. After another season of rumbling discontent, they now look likely to qualify for the Uefa Champions League.

They were dire on Saturday; that is undeniable. They passed sideways again and again, dominating possession and getting nowhere against a dogged Norwich City.

They did what Arsenal teams have done habitually over the past few years and conceded when they seemed to be in charge, Michael Turner exposing that familiar weakness to the crossed ball.

But then, thanks initially to a generous penalty, they scored three goals in the last five minutes to climb to third in the table, a point above both Chelsea and Tottenham, although Chelsea have a game in hand. A win over Everton on Tuesday night would put Arsenal firmly in control.

Arsene Wenger's group are, suddenly, the team in form.

They have won four in a row and seven of their past eight in the league, and although they have home games to come against Everton and Manchester United, their run-in looks marginally easier than that of both Chelsea and Spurs, who meet each other on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Yet there remains a mood of dissatisfaction at the Emirates.

Realistically, the pre-season target was Champions League qualification, but that statistic of eight years without a trophy continues to rankle.

The problem, really, lies in the disjunct between Arsenal's image and the reality.

Analysis by the statistician Zach Slaton in The Blizzard shows no side has so over-performed relative to transfer expenditure over the past decade.

Sell the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie and qualification for the Champions League is actually a remarkable achievement.

But in terms of stadium, ticket prices and rhetoric, Arsenal are bigger than that.

There has been talk - again - of a sizeable transfer kitty, but Arsenal fans have heard that before.

Each year the question seems to come louder: are they a football club intent on winning trophies, or a business that sees Champions League qualification on minimum expenditure as the best way to a profit?

 

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