For a period in time, a little over a decade ago, the Premier League was more or less a two horse race: Arsenal and Manchester United. Fast forward past when Chelsea were bought, or even past when Manchester City got bought, and the result is that we have more or less dropped down two places. That doesn’t mean this will be the case forever. But since the two clubs have been “cashed in” shall we say, things have never been the same. And thus, my worries about the future around us will be explained in this article.
Before I go on, please understand that I’m fully aware that the period of time where we didn’t really have as much to spend is over. And I’m not having a moan about that at all. What I wish to share with this article is those teams around us and their impact on Arsenal football club.
So as it is, West Ham are set to move in to their new home, the Olympic stadium, in the 16/17 season. This will give them a brand new, 54,000 seat stadium in London to work with over the 99 year lease. Having this brand new state of the art stadium, including sponsorship and naming rights and all the rest, will clearly push West Ham up the table somewhat.
Or will it? Consider for a second that before Manchester City were purchased, they took over the Commonwealth Games stadium in the 03/04 season, and it didn’t instantly turn around their fortunes. But you could say, it was the new ground that played a part in City being bought and thus, their success and new financial stability.
But just having bigger stadiums doesn’t guarantee success. Other teams like Sunderland, Newcastle and even Leeds in the Championship, aren’t able to capitalise on their bigger grounds to elevate them to higher levels.
You can debate that with simple things like “they don’t have the financial clout” which is true. But this is part of the article and, I guess, the debate I want to touch on. West Ham aren’t the only team who will be playing in a new stadium in the future. Them lot up the road are looking to increase their capacity along with Liverpool and there is reason for concern – even if just a little.
If Spurs and West Ham were both to find some success due to new grounds, does Arsenal have anything to worry about? Would we again find ourselves slipping behind the rich clubs? We are in a good spot financially and to some extent, financial fair play should stop new owners trying to do a Chelsea or a Man City. But if for example – West Ham’s gate, and sponsorship money, was sound enough for a new owner to come in and bankroll them, are we in danger of just falling behind due to the all mighty dollar again?
Yes we are in a strong financial spot. But can we compete with the Chelsea’s, City’s, and the big teams on the continent? It’s worth thinking about at the least. As far as those on the mainland are concerned, they aren’t something we can really worry about. It’s the teams around us who have my attention – the teams in London. I couldn’t even fathom a world where Spurs got an owner who wanted to push them on like Abramovich did at Chelsea.
Maybe I’m reading too much in to it, but teams like Spurs and West Ham in particular, aren’t going to go through all this just to increase finances alone. The goal has to be bigger. If you really look down the line, you could see a time where Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool all have increased ground size, or new stadiums altogether. To be fair, that may be much further down the line before that actually happens anyway and shouldn’t be cause for concern just yet.
I guess this is just an article about me worrying what will happen, once those around us do come in to “new money” shall we call it? At least we are already 10 years ahead of the curve in that aspect. Would we possibly get leapfrogged again into mediocrity? Deep down I don’t think so – I think we are set up well and truly for the long term.
I could see the Premier League becoming similar to the Bundesliga, in that bar Bayern, the top four (those chasing Champions League places,) aren’t so set in stone. While in recent times it’s been a tight race to decide who makes the top four in England, in reality, it is more or less the usual suspects who get in. Add a few more teams with some serious ambition and financial clout from their new stadiums, and the top four spots may more often be fought out between 7 or more teams for years to come.
I guess looking at the big picture, the days of it being a two horse race, with Arsenal one of those teams, are long gone. That isn’t to say we can’t have a period of great success for a long time, but as far as a duopoly at the top of the pile goes? I don’t see it. For neutral fans, the Premier League is going to really be a hard fought, thrilling battle. And as an Arsenal fan, with concerns about those around us, I hope we are always right there contending. No matter who builds what, or how much money they have.
We may have taken a small step away from the limelight in the last decade, and the next decade may shape the English game for many more, but part of me is confident that Arsenal, and the future around Arsenal, will always be a bright one. Bring on the competition. We are just now beginning to reap the rewards transfer wise, and I hope that players like Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez, are just the tip of the iceberg.
Those around us have to follow in our footsteps when it comes to new grounds, and I hope they will always be 10-15 years behind in that department. Clearly their money will come fast and their squads improved. But as I mentioned before, bigger stadiums, and more money doesn’t guarantee success.
I’ll leave the concern to one side. And believe that we have more than enough going for us to quell any new competition. You have to beat the best to be the best. And that’s something I hope we manage and do for a long time to come.
By ‘#ABW Regular Columnist’ Jake Arsenal (@JakeArsenal1)