“Who put the ball in Arsenal’s net? All of fucking Europe,” used to be the chant sung, following Arsenal’s poor record in Europe. When United won it in 1999, Wenger’s team couldn’t get out of the group stages, with Lens and Dynamo Kyiv finishing above them. It was the same story the following season, with Barcelona and Fiorentina finishing ahead of them. The following season they got out of the group, but were knocked out by Valencia in the next round. Then in 2002, it was Leverkusen and Deportivo that stopped them progressing out of the group. The next season it was Ajax and Valencia. The following year, their unbeaten season, they reached the dizzying heights of the quarter-finals, but were knocked out by Chelsea. Out of the group the next season, but beaten in the next round by Bayern Munich. Then along came 2006 and Arsenal made the final.
In the seven years of European football before then, Arsenal failed to progress from the group stages four times, made the first knock-out round twice, as well as one quarter-final.
They lost to Barcelona in their final anyway, and since then, have reached the first knock-out round and the quarter-finals again. I mean, it’s not exactly a glittering history in Europe for poor ol Arsene. So, it’s no surprise that he wants to see United, Liverpool and Chelsea kicked out of the competition.
UEFA are set to investigate finances of European clubs, particularly those working in a deficit, such as the three teams Wenger battles it out with every season in the league.
Of course, UEFA have only become interested in this matter since English teams have started to dominate Europe. They are not at all happy to see our teams making the semis and finals so frequently, so this is a perfect excuse to bring us down a peg or two.
It’s funny that when Real Madrid were ruling the roost, with the Spanish government sorting them out with their indirect funding, winning the European Cup three times between 1998 and 2002, UEFA weren’t concerned with the topic. The same can be said of AC Milan, owned by Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, winning it five times in less than twenty years. However, Michel Platini is very excited to deal with the English “cheats” after turning a blind eye to clubs in Italy and Spain for so long, and it seems his enthusiasm is shared by Wenger.
“I think teams who have deficit should be kicked out of Europe,” Wenger said. “The only way to go is that there is a control over all of Europe, and I think it will go that way whether you like it or not. UEFA will bring in a control of the management of every individual club and every individual club will be controlled. It is very important for the fans of the competition first, and it is very important that every club lives with the resources they have available – clubs should not speculate and then after one year they cannot pay the salaries for the next seasons. Every transfer nowadays in Europe is paid over two or three years, and it is compulsory that UEFA controls that the commitment of the club is right, because if that does not happen, it can all collapse very quickly.”
Now, United are walking on shaky ground, and it is not a situation any United fan has chosen to be in. We didn’t want the Glazers to buy us. We were sitting pretty as one of the wealthiest clubs in the World, we didn’t need someone to buy us to make us successful and rich. We fought against being in this situation, but in the end, there was nothing that could stop it. The debt is a concern for United and optimistically, we have to trust that the Glazers didn’t get to be very rich people by making stupid decisions and buying “businesses” they couldn’t afford to run. We have to imagine the Glazers have planned out how to repay the debt, as that’s all we can do.
However, I resent being lumped in to this category with Chelsea and Liverpool, the former being on the brink of declaring bankruptcy before Roman Abramovich bought them and the latter going 17 years without winning the title before being bought by Hicks and Gillet.
Regardless, football became a business long ago, which Arsenal have benefited from also since their dealings with Arsenal Holdings plc. If football wasn’t a business, we wouldn’t see big club likes Leedscum in the doldrums, being relegated just three years after reaching the Champions League semi-final.
There is the risk and all clubs are fully aware of it. If it happens to your club then I imagine it feels like the end of the World, but what has it go to do with UEFA if clubs are going to take these risks? What does it have to do with Wenger? He might enjoy playing it safe, but playing it safe has won him fuck all.
Now that is not to say I don’t envy Arsenal’s position of security, because I do. I’d much rather things were how they used to be, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. It wasn’t our choice. But here we are, and we are the Champions, Champions of Europe. We had won the European Cup twice more than Arsenal have even before the Glazer takeover, but now we should be kicked out?
Whilst I hate Liverpool to the core, to throw out teams like them and us, with such rich European history would be ridiculous, and it’s safe to say, the competition would be lesser because of it. It would become a joke if Real Madrid and AC Milan were also removed. In the 53 years of the European Cup, these four clubs have been holders 24 times. But this it what Wenger and Platini would like to see happen. Oh dear.
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