Is progression the new top 4
With this weekend being an FA Cup weekend, I thought I would try and put together a debate that I have been having recently with some mates.
I asked a few weeks ago to people “finish 4th and win the FA Cup, would you be happy with that? Would that make this season a success?”. The answer emphatically came back. NO.
When I asked them to expand their reasoning, one word continually popper up. PROGRESSION.
Over the last 10 years, and during our 8 year trophy drought, these guys were thirsty for a trophy. They became angry any time someone (Wenger) said something like “top 4 is a trophy”. Every time we were knocked out of a cup competition fielding a weakened side so as to rest players for the league (despite us having no chance of winning the league) they would call for Arsene Wenger’s head.
Trophies are king. Honours lists do not have top 4 on them. And I agreed.
Manchester United have won 2 trophies in 2 years. They did not finish to p4 last year, are struggling to do so this year, but history will not show the latter, they will show 2 trophies in 2 years.
So why has this attitude changed? Why is winning the FA Cup no longer seen as a successful season? And ultimately, what is progression?
When I asked them what is progression, they all listed various factors:
- Challenging for the title
- Beating top sides away
- Getting past the Last 16 of the Champions League
- Not making the same mistakes year after year
I understood the points they were making. That Arsenal have not challenged for a title in years. Have an awful recent record in big away games. The Last 16 record is a joke. And the predictable continual mistakes are frustrating.
It feels like Arsenal as a club have not gone forward over the last 5 years. We are already double figures behind Chelsea and out of the Champions League. There has been no progression at the club in that time.
But then there has been 2 FA Cups. 2 trophies. 2 pieces of silverware. Surely that is more important than progression?
Let’s create a scenario:
- Arsenal finish 2nd, 1 point behind the Champions
- Arsenal beat big sides away – Chelsea, Man U & Man C – but lose away to all 3 relegated sides
- Arsenal get knocked out of the Champions League semi finals
That is what my mates called for, that is the progression they demanded, but ultimately Arsenal ended up trophyless. Nothing to show for their efforts. No finals, not even a semi final trip to Wembley. A trophyless season where we progressed. Would you be happy with that?
Some will say yes, but I am in the no camp. Football is all about trophies. Not top 4 finishes, not showing progression.
I am sure the likes of Birmingham and Portsmouth would rather have won the trophies they did, and be in their current positions, than be a stable Premier League side like WBA or Stoke, but winning no trophies. The trophies are what is remembered, they are what go’s down in the record books.
Like top 4 finishes, progression that does not end in a trophy is pointless. No one will care about it in 20 years time.
Do you really think Man U will care about finishing 6th when they have League Cup already in the cabinet – making them the most successful side in the English game; overtaking Liverpool.
That expands my thinking further.
Finish above Spurs but without a trophy, or finish below them with a trophy?
Now I love this run we have going against that lot above the road. But what do we get for it? No cups, no silverware, just an ability to say it has been 22 years without them finishing above us. But if they finish above us, and we win the FA Cup, who has really had the better season? The side having a parade around North London for finishing above their rivals, or the side having a parade around North London because they won a trophy.
I see progression as the new Top 4. Only this time rather than those who back Wenger saying it is important, those who do not back him are the ones holding it in high esteem.
Essentially, winning a trophy trumps progression. Give me the FA Cup over finishing 2nd in the league any day of the week.
Tomorrow is the most important game of the season. Win the FA Cup and I do not care if we fail to win another Premier League game this season.
Stick your progress up your arse, it is all about the trophies.