Prediction: Arsenal ticket prices will not drop with Europa League football

Predicting the future in football is near impossible. Who would have guessed in 1990 that Liverpool would not win another league title in 26 years, despite winning 13 in the previous 26. Or in 1996 that the weird looking spectacled new Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, would have seen off 10 Spurs managers. Or in 2004, that Arsenal’s invincible’s would not win another league title. Or finally in 2015 that Leicester City would win the title.

Even though it is stupid trying to predict the future, with it being an international break, I thought I would put a few small short term predictions down on paper on a few different things Arsenal over the next couple of days.

Ticket Prices

If Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League, season ticket prices will not drop.

In the Arsenal Terms and Conditions, we sign up to 19 league games and the first 7 cup games, excluding the League Cup. With qualification for the Europa League likely, Arsenal will stick to their guns. You will still get 19 league games and 7 cup games. You will just get Europa League instead of Champions League.

The T&C’s split fixtures up for pricing as follows:

6 Cat A, 14 Cat B and 6 Cat C

Recently Arsenal have created additional games as Cat A, and therefore charged this back to fans in the next years season ticket. Likewise this year, we are due a small refund.

The club will make the decision that despite us being in a lesser European competition, prices will remain the same, and with the same split of A, B & C.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United have been Cat A games this season. That is 5 of the 6 games. The club will either move another Premier League game to Cat A (previously West Ham has been Cat A) or rely on Arsenal getting a big home cup tie in either the FA Cup early stages, in the Europa League to make it 6.

Creating 6 Cat A games will not be a big problem.

The issue is the other end of the spectrum. Can Arsenal create enough Cat B games?

This season, Manchester United were drawn in a group which contained Fenerbache, Feyenoord and Zorya Luhansk. The club would have no qualms about making Fenerbache and Feyenoord Cat B. They would be if they were in the Champions League. Zorya Luhansk would have to be Cat C.

Southampton were drawn with Inter Milan, Sparta Prague and Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Inter Milan would certainly be Cat B, maybe even Cat A. Prague Cat B. Hapoel Be’er Sheve Cat C.

In recent years, the split in the Champions League group stages has been 1 Cat A, 2 Cat B. A move down to the Europa League would create 2 Cat B, 1 Cat C.

So for the club to offer the same amount of Cat A, B & C games, at the same cost, they would just have to boost one Cat B game to Cat A, and 1 Cat C game to Cat B. It will not be that hard to do.

Whether fans will happily pay for their season tickets when they are getting Europa League is another story. But the club do not care about the fans. With a waiting list of around 100,000 people, if 15% of people chose not to renew due to it, the 6,000 season tickets coming available will be quickly snapped up.

Dropping out of the Champions League will not see a drop in ticket prices.

Keenos

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Lincoln game was meant to be a building block

No one expected Arsenal to get beat against Lincoln. Even the Imps manager Danny Cowley was forthcoming with his sides 1/1000 chance of snatching a result at the Emirates but the FA Cup quarter-final came at a pivotal moment in the season.

It’s evident Arsenal have been regressing for a number of years – the frustration is aired out yearly around this time from avid supporters. The results aren’t good enough. The frailties transparent for ever non-Arsenal fan to snigger at again. It’s frustrating. But not all is lost.

Cue non-league Lincoln City. It brought back the romanticism of the FA Cup that’s been lacking recently. But for the Gunners it gave them a chance to get everything back in working order. Back to basics. Get things back to the way they were – playing expansive football. Confidence. Elegance. The quarter-final was the blank canvas Wenger and Arsenal had been crying out for during these tough couple of months. There was to be little resistance after half-time – if anything fitness levels would determine that non-league Lincoln would be chasing shadows at this point.

The 5-0 result saw Arsenal book a semi-final spot against Chelsea, but there were more tangible benefits garnered from demolishing a non-league team. While it did nothing to dampen some Arsenal fans insistence that Wenger should walk away from the club at the end of the season, many hoped it would help them focus on the task at hand – the weekend’s game against Tony Pulis’s West Brom.

Arsenal have struggled against Pulis’ teams over the years. They had a torrid time against his over physical Stoke side. The worst memory of note was the horrendous Aaron Ramsey leg break courtesy of a bad Ryan Shawcross challenge. Yet, this was going to be different against a West Brom side managed by Wenger’s arch nemesis, right? Wrong.

A woeful performance saw the Gunners humbled by a hard working, no-frills, typically resolute Pulis side that were once again the thorn in Arsene Wenger’s welcoming and spongy side. Arsenal’s inability to deal with set pieces had analysts, fans and casual viewers shaking their heads in disbelief. But where do Wenger’s men go from here? Will the Frenchman continue at the Emirates? These are all pressing questions, but for now the players will embark on an international break, one in which Arsenal will welcome with the hope the players return with the bit between their teeth.

Upon arriving back in North London, Wenger will be tasked with preparing his side for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Like Arsenal, City have stuttered their way along this campaign without any real consistency. However, due to their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Ligue 1 side Monaco, Guardiola’s men will have their eyes on second place in the Premier League.

The Arsenal-Manchester City rivalry has been one of the closest in English football in terms of results. Only one win separates the sides with City edging it 91-90, according to the stats compiled by Arsenal World.

Their indifferent form has also meant that when they meet at the Emirates on April 2nd, it will be a fiercely contested match between two teams struggling to regain their stride amidst some rather disappointing results. If you use bwin’s True Form algorithm to calculate the recent form of the two teams, it shows how closely contested the game should be in the next round of Premier League fixtures. Even though the Gunners are playing at home they still aren’t considered favourites due to some shocking losses, such as against Watford at the Emirates where the Gunners were odds-on favourites to win. Also a comprehensive defeat at the hands of London rivals Chelsea means that True Form has seen that as a major indicator that City will come out victors on April 2nd.

In City’s last 5 games, they’ve been relatively consistent compared to Arsenal, which is an overriding factor as to why True Form sees them as slight favourites. Wins against West Ham, Swansea and Bournemouth as well as draws against top half teams Stoke and Liverpool has meant that they have played against better placed sides than Arsenal in their last five games, therefore being considered favourites by True Form because of their positive results.

However, regardless of the stats that swing in favour of City, Arsenal will be hoping that playing against a likeminded free-flowing footballing team will give Özil, Sanchez, Walcott and Ramsey the room to breathe and express themselves even when the Gunners are at their most vulnerable. The Lincoln game was meant to be a building block to help them regain some sort of title-challenging form. But every season has its set backs, let’s just hope that was the last of them, and we don’t have to see Tony Pulis again until the next campaign.

The Arsenal in Limbo

I write this, two days after Arsene Wenger informed us that he knows what he intends to do about his future, and that he will share this with us, very soon. Sadly, this leaves the football world in limbo as far as Arsenal are concerned. The press are having a field day. Fans are openly warring all over social media and radio phone ins shows are full of pundits and former players having their two-penneth worth.

I’m not sure what purpose a statement like this serves ? The only rational conclusion seems to be that it deflects from the dreadful performance, away to West Brom ? Or, perhaps it’s a cunning plan by Wenger to flush out the two sides and get a good handle on public opinion before committing himself to the new deal that’s, supposedly, on the table ?

Either way, we seem to fast approaching the end game. We are on a dreadful run and its going to be tough to get back into the top four. The FA Cup has three other strong sides left in it, so that’s another very difficult route. Even a cup win would only feel like small consolation this season.

The fanbase is very divided although the tide has definitely turned in favour of the out side. There has long been a very vocal out group, often undermining their own effectiveness with uncalled for personal abuse towards Wenger. But now we are seeing a more measured and moderate group asking for change. This isn’t the rantings of a few disgruntled fans but a ground swell of opinion.

Of those who want a new contract for Wenger, most accept that something isn’t quite right at the club and lay the blame at the door of Kroenke and the board. There is still a large number who believe Arsene’s hands have been tied and he has performed miracles on a limited budget.

There are also those who oppose the manager and the board and hold them jointly liable to what has happened to the club. They claim Kroenke is only in it for the money and that a top four finish guarantees to swell the coffers. They also insist that Wenger can do nothing to get the sack so long as the money keeps rolling in, and because of this he has taken his eye off the ball and is coasting.

I don’t want to debate the rights and wrongs and the merits of each camps arguments. I’m not sitting on the fence, my personal opinion just isn’t relevant to this article. But if everyone’s opinion has a modicum of truth the final outcome will be resolved before the end of the season.

If Wenger feels he has lost the fans and/or the dressing room he will announce his departure at the end of the season in the next week or so. If Kroenke is all about the money then he wont miss the fact that Champions League qualification is looking very dodgy. He will also be wary of rewarding an unpopular manager with a two year deal knowing that if form doesn’t turn round quickly he could be stuck with around a £20 million compensation package to fund. A hard headed businessman will be fully aware that a new manager will want to assess the current squad and bring in summer additions. He will also know that £20 million wasted on compensation could be well used in wages to tempt new blood.

It’s difficult to see any scenario where Wenger is able to sign a new deal without a backlash from the fans. Not impossible, but it’s looking less likely that Wenger will be in charge next season. One things for sure though, something has to give one way or another. I just hope the priority for everyone who loves Arsenal is the club and the whole thing doesn’t turn into a farce as its seems to be in danger of at the moment.

MD