Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, came in for criticism recently when he suggested that finishing in the top four was akin to winning a trophy. But, does his argument actually carry substance or was it merely an attempt to keep the wolves at bay with the Gunners no longer able to challenge for the title?
If winning the Premier League is highly unlikely, as it is for Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton, the question fans must ask themselves is, "would I rather my team won a trophy (i.e. the F.A Cup or Capital One Cup) or would I prefer a top four finish and qualify for the Champions League?"
Whilst finishing in the top four, or fourth in particular, doesn't earn you a physical trophy, with both Manchester United and Manchester City dominating, and big spenders Chelsea nipping at their heels, fourth spot has to be the realistic goal for Arsenal, Everton and Spurs.
Three clubs scrapping for one Premier League position, with the spoils for the victor great. Vast sums of money accompany Champions League qualification; the ability to attract players of considerable quality, European nights that will live long in the memory and the opportunity to propel a club into a completely new and unseen era.
Champions League qualification is vital for ambitious clubs, but at this juncture, there is reason to debate which of the three contenders would benefit most from participation in Europe's elite club competition, as well as who failure to qualify could have the most disastrous consequences for.
Arsenal are Champions League regulars, often progressing well beyond the group stages and this has enabled them to attract players of a certain calibre whilst maintaining the push for future qualification and even the Premier League title.
However, over recent seasons, a top four finish has been their priority. From title contenders, they have gone to top four contenders and failure to qualify for the Champions League this season could be the catalyst for an even further downward spiral for the club.
Tottenham's progress, on the other hand, has been of stark contrast to the regress of their north London rivals. For years, Spurs have been knocking on the door of the Champions league, finally finding the elusive key to that door in the 2009/2010 season.
And even though Spurs repeated the feat last season, London rivals Chelsea lifted the Champions League and consigned Tottenham to the UEFA Europa League.
Similarly to Spurs, Champions League qualification could be the boost that Everton need to really mix it with the big boys. On their day, Everton are a match for any Premier League outfit, but with a relatively thin squad, can they maintain their form and repeat their top four finish of 2004/05?
Champions League qualification remains the holy-grail for all three clubs. However, it is Arsenal that so desperately need a top four finish this season if they wish to return to former glory. Catastrophic consequences could follow and further extend the Gunners' baron, trophy-less spell.
So, which would you prefer, a Cup or Champions League football next season?
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