So the Champions League draw is done, and once more Arsenal have a tricky group. Once more drawn against Borussia Dortmund, “Welcome2Hell Part II” with another trip to Turkey, this time facing Galatasaray, and trickier then it might seem games against Belgium champions Anderlecht.
Here is a controversial theory for you, would Arsenal actually benefit more by finishing 3rd and dropping into the Europa League? Hear me out.
It is a well used statistic since Wednesday’s win over Besiktas that Arsenal have now qualified for the Champions League 17 seasons in a row. In that 17 years, we have made the final just once. We have only got past the 1st knockout stage 6 times. Just 35%. Without being defeatist, we will not win the competition.
Our record of having not beaten a top side in England also stretches to Europe. As soon as we have faced a bigger side (Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester United) we have been knocked out.
So what will happen this season? We will finish 2nd to Dortmund in the group, get drawn against one of Europe’s Elite in the 1st knockout stage, and get knocked out. We have little chance of winning the trophy.
Rather than finish 2nd, would it not be better to finish 3rd? Drop into the Europa League, take it seriously, and compete for a trophy we have more chance of winning? The only time in the last 17 years that we dropped into the Europa League (or UEFA Cup), we made the final, and lost a game we should have one.
It might seem a crazy idea to want to get knocked out, but ask yourself the question, would you rather:
a) Be knocked out in the 1st knockout round
b) Have a trip to Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw to look forward to in May?
The Champions League is a massive money making machine. Last year, in making the 1st knockout round, Arsenal €27,232,000 in prize money and TV money.
Using last year’s figures, just by qualifying for the Champions League, Arsenal will get:
- €8,600,000 for participating
- €11,132,000 in TV money
- €1,000,000 for every group game win
- €500,000 for every group game draw
So if Arsenal finish 3rd in the group, and get knocked out (with, say, 2 wins and 2 draws), they will pocket €22,732,000. That would be just €5,000,000 less than the previous year. This can easily be made up by progression in the Europa League. Juventus received an additional €2,000,000 in prize money for making the semi-finals of the Europa League last year and an additional €5,025,115 in TV money. A similar performance by Arsenal generating a similar amount of money would see Arsenal earn €29,757,115 from European football. So making the semi final of the Europa League would generate more €€€€ than making the 1st knockout stage of the Champions League.
A final point to take into consideration is gate receipts. Arsenal would have made circa €4,000,000 in gate receipts from the game against Bayern Munich. A semi-final Europa League game would mean four extra games. That would generate €16,000,000 in additional revenue.
So were Arsenal to get knocked out at the group stages, and then make the semi final of the Europa League, the club would make an additional €14.5million in revenue.
Winning the Europa League would add another €5,000,000 in prize money! Not bad for ‘failure.’
Coefficient points are a calculation that UEFA uses to rank club sides for seeding in future competitions. Due to Arsenal being continually knocked out at the 1st knockout stage of the Champions League, our coefficient points have wained, resulting in us currently sitting in 10th. Luckily, due to Manchester United and Valencia not making the Champions League, we remained top seeds. However, with the likes of Burussia Dortmund and PSG hot on our heels, another early Champions League exit would see us slip behind them, and into pot 2 next season.
Best case scenario? Arsenal finish 3rd, rather than 2nd, and cash in on the extra coefficient points available in the Europa League. 5 of the 9 sides currently above Arsenal have played Europa League football in the last 4 seasons.
Last season, Juventus, in failing to make the Champions League knockout stages, got 5 more coefficient points than Arsenal. Benfica, by failing in the Champions League, but winning the Europa League, they gained 10 more coefficient points.
Infact, Benfica highlight how more beneficial it could be to get knocked out. In the 4 completed season’s that UEFA are using for their coefficient calculation for next years competition, Benfica were knocked out of the Champions League group stages 3 times. In all 3 of those seasons, they went on to gain more coefficient points than Arsenal, despite Arsenal making the knockout stages each year. This has resulted them in being over 20 points above Arsenal. Despite failing in Europe’s premier competition.
To secure Arsenal’s place as a top seed next season, Arsenal would be better off being knocked out at the group stage and having a run in the Europa League, than being knocked out at the 1st knockout stage of the Champions League.
Odd as it might be, there is plenty to gain from finishing 3rd rather than 2nd in the group stage. Better chance of winning a trophy, greater chance to earn more money, and increased coefficient points.