P 18 W 17 D 1
At the time of writing, that was Manchester City’s results in the league so far this season. It is awesome form that is seeing them average 2.88 points per game. Keep it up and they will end up with a record breaking 109 points.
They have blown the rest of the Premier League away this season. A mixture of having a top coach in Pep Guardiola, and having a squad that cost £632m has seen them have the strongest set up in the Premier League since those early Jose Mourinho days at Chelsea.
If the first XI is not working, Guardiola has a bench which contains £100s of millions worth of talent, including the likes of Bernardo Silva who cost £43m.
When Sergio Aguero, has easily been the best striker in Premier League over the last 5 / 6 years is no longer guaranteed a start, it shows the strength of their squad.
It is not just the money they have spent, the football that Guardiola is coaching his players to produce puts them a cut above.
This brings me on to the main part of my thoughts.
Whilst it is frustrating that it is Manchester City and not Arsenal running away with it, the fact is,. For 2017/18 at least, Man city are going to win the league, Arsenal or not.
So what else then do Arsenal have to play for?
- Top 4 finish
- Finishing above Spurs
- League Cup
- Europa League
- FA Cup
There are 5 motivations for the players. What is important now is that as we are not going to win the league, we re-organise our priorities this season.
Firstly, finishing above Spurs and a top 4 finish can be put into one box.
Personally I think that Manchester United and Chelsea will both be good (and consistent) enough to finish top 4. That leaves one more place for Burnley, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal to battle over. Finish top 4 and we finish above Spurs.
Also, bar bragging rights, finishing above Spurs does not really mean much in the long course of history.
In the 1992/93 season, Arsenal finished 10th. Spurs finished 8th. Arsenal became the first ever club to do the domestic cup double. Spurs won nothing. I imagine if I asked the question (before I told you the answer) as to where Arsenal and Spurs finished in 1993, you would not have a clue. Bit if I asked who won the cups, you would know both.
This brings me on to the next point. If we are not going to win the league, should we be prioritising league games over cup competitions?
We got mocked for the Top 4 Trophy for 10 years. During that period, many Arsenal fans who have consistently called for Arsene Wenger’s head moaned that Wenger was prioritising a top 4 finish above winning cups. He was disrespecting cups.
Last year Spurs finished above us, they showed progression, they competed but ultimately they won nothing.
It seems now Arsenal fans have done a 360. Rather than win a trophy, suddenly that want the team to show progression and compete, to finish top 4.
The same people moaning that top 4 is not a trophy now what us to finish top 4, even if it means no trophy. They want us to prioritise the top 4.
My fear is, Wenger, and the board, will go the same.
They will go back to the old thinking that finishing top 4 is more important than winning a trophy. They will prioritise it, and continue to play a second XI in the cups. Ultimately this could leave us with no trophies and, on current form, outside the top 4.
Personally, I would actually like us to prioritise the trophies over the league.
Last season Manchester United won the League cup and Europa League. They made the decision to prioritise the cups over finishing top 4. Their hand was forced due to being about 10 points behind a top 4 position going into Christmas, but ultimately they won the trophies.
In years down the line, Manchester United will remember the trophies they won in the 2016/17 season, but will anyone remember who finished top 4? Probably not.
At the time of writing, there is just a single point between 4th and 7th, with Arsenal in 7th. But is there actually any difference between finishing 4th and finishing 7th, bar the Champions League football and finances it brings?
Now this would be controversial.
I would not be too unhappy if we played a B team in the league games that occur before a mid-week cup tie.
I would not care if we finished 10th, if it mean winning a cup.
Football is all about winning trophies. The winners are remembered. We entered 4 competitions at the beginning of the season. One we can no longer win, 3 we can. So why prioritise the completion we can no longer win?
Over the years, Sky and UEFA have brainwashed fans to believe that the only trophies that matter is the Premier League and Champions League. Sadly, some fans now believe this calling the FA Cup no longer the competition it once was.
Tell anyone who was at Wembley in May that finishing top 4 was more important, or those Manchester United fans in Sweden that finishing 6th means everything whilst winning a European trophy means nothing.
Now let’s play a game.
Below is a list of the seasons we won a cup. I have excluded the seasons where we also won the league. Name the trophy and Arsenal’s league position in the corresponding season:
How did you get on? I bet you were able to write down the majority of the trophies won quite quickly. But how about the league positions? I imagine the more recent ones were easy, but how many of the earlier ones did you guess?
Do you want the answers? They are at the end of the blog.
The point of the exercise was to highlight that history only remembers one league position. And that is first. But you will also remember the other successes. The other trophies won.
I could probably name every FA Cup winner between 1988 (I was 3) and now. I would struggle to name who finished 2nd in those season, let alone 4th.
It will require a change in mentality, but with us being 19 points behind Manchester City in the league, sacrificing the league position to potentially win 3 cups surely makes sense?
And finally, those answers: