Friday, December 09, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Manchester's Exit from Europe


So, the first pro is fairly obvious - hilarity. It's always funny to watch United lose, especially in Europe where Fergie's ability to influence referees is less pronounced. The fact that they were served up one of the easiest CL groups I can remember makes it even funnier. The loss also exposes the fact that United aren't, perhaps, the force they once were. I know it's become almost as common to say United are on the decline among the football media as 'this season, Liverpool will definitely be title contenders', but there does seem to be an end of an era air around the club. Scholes has gone, and Giggs will be gone soon as well. Ferdinand can't hack it anymore. Fergie is 70. They have no central midfield. None of these are damning - indeed, I still expect United to finish second - but you wonder whether United really bought the right players in the summer.This article, by Daniel Taylor of the Guardian, suggests that the Glazers financial pillage of the club is really beginning to hurt the team in the transfer market. Yes, they absolutely destroyed us in August - but it increasingly looks like that result may have papered over quite a few cracks.

City's defeat is funny on a few different levels. Nasri's face being one of them. It would be easy to go into 'a money can't buy you everything' rant, but, let's face it, they will win something this year. But it also shows that they are not the all-conquering force that their domestic form has suggested so far. They are beatable in a one-off game situation, especially with Lescott and Toure in defence.

From an Arsenal perspective, it gives us a glimmer of hope in terms of the competition. We have been far more consistent in Europe this year than in the prem, and our record against English teams in the CL is abysmal. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think we've ever beaten an English team over two-legs in Europe? Let alone in the last ten years. With a bit of luck we could go further in Europe this year than many of us hoped back in early September.


United and City are now free to focus on the league. While Europe has shown City are beatable, the resources at their squad make it a big ask for any team in the prem. I think we will give them a good game, but, as Alan Davies keeps on saying, I worry for our unbeaten record. It's one thing for them to buy the league; it's another to buy one of the greatest achievements in modern football.

I would expect Mancini to use the exits as an excuse to spend more cash in January, and the title already looks a foregone conclusion.

The exits of the Manc clubs also means that it's only us and Chelsea, out of the six teams realistically competing to finish in the top-four, who will be playing top-level European football in the new year. This increases the chances of United sowing up second place and, I hate to say it, the spuds getting 3rd/4th. They may yet implode, given the potential fall-out of 'arry's court-case, and, let's face it, the fact they are spurs, but they look a good outfit at the moment, and will be better rested than us for league games.


Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing in football, especially when it is at the expense of the likes of Ferguson and Mancini. In the short-term, seeing Manchester stripped of meaningful European football is a wonderful mix of joy and hilarity. Their exits also increase the chances of us going on a decent run in the competition.

However, it's hard to see past the Spanish teams, and even resurgent Italian and German teams like Napoli and Bayern, for the CL this year. By overly investing our resources in the competition, we could weaken ourselves domestically in a competition against other teams for top-four places who won't be playing as many games as we are. Furthermore, their defeats increase the likelihood that City and United will be in January - although, if United don't, perhaps a serious financial malaise really has taken over the club.

The ultimate conclusion of all this is that, despite Wilshere's return in January, we need reinforcements. Many of Wenger's buys this summer have turned out well, but we need more bodies in midfield and up-front. We are a van Persie injury away from our mini-resurgence collapsing, because Park and Chamakh are not up to the job of being a reliable understudy. Buying a striker in January will be expensive, but the club needs to bite the bullet if we are to fully exploit any advantage we have gained by the events on Wednesday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article, but I really can't see us winning hte cl this year.