Of the PL’s big six, which is best placed to compete and succeed in the short-term?
Things in football change quickly, though more specifically how does Arsenal compare to the other big six?
Are we close to challenging?
What advantages or disadvantages does each have in this regard?
As the season could tentatively re-start in June, then let’s reflect to see where we are.
Looking at the seasons of each club:
Liverpool is the European Champion (bar losing to Atletico Madrid in r/16), as well as the burgeoning PL champion. With the season’s voiding in the air, even with the conditional restart approved by the Government, they could yet win their 19th title and first since the PL began.
City, despite being way behind Liverpool’s points total, could yet win the CL and FA Cup. They already won the League Cup before the season’s suspension, and could yet win another treble.
Man United, after signing Bruno Fernandes in January, has improved. It may not mean Ole has improved, but they are burgeoning on Chelsea in fourth place., and are still in the Europa League and FA Cup.
Chelsea, as stated, is fourth in the league, but could well win the FA Cup. The major low though is that they lost badly to Bayern Munich in the CL, though Lampard in his old standing ground is holding his own.
And then our good friends lost comically to Colchester in the League Cup, were defeated in the FA Cup by Norwich, and succumbed to RB Leipzig in the CL. They, unlike us, can’t win anything this season. Should things go in our favour, maybe the feast day of St. Totteringham could be re-introduced if the remaining league fixtures (including an NLD no less) go well. Mourinho may have a world-class CV, though he hasn’t yet enhanced them to any real degree.
And for ourselves, we’re ninth and lost in the League Cup to Liverpool and the Europa League to Olympiakos. However, we’re still in the FA Cup, and this could potentially propel us to glory. It would be immense if Arteta won a trophy in his first-ever managerial season.
So all of the big six, bar Spurs, could still win something this season.
If ranking from best hopes to no hope, it would be thus:
– Man United
As for transfers, well Liverpool has the most settled side. Chelsea, ourselves, Spurs, City and United, all need players, though City doesn’t need as much. Perhaps replacements for Stones and Silva. And maybe Sane could leave to boot.
Spurs like us need a new defence, though in attack they look very strong. Kane and Son are world-class, and Moura and Bergwijn look good. Lloris is getting increasingly error-prone, and Aurier is in many ways their Mustafi or Luiz. Alderweireld and Vertoghen are getting past it now, and Davies isn’t to the level. Danny Rose has been consistent for them, but is 30 now and thus not for the long-haul.
Chelsea has many good but old players, and even though with Ziyech incoming and Pulisic to start, need reinforcements in midfield and attack. This could well be Auba, who knows? Kepa has not impressed for them, and they need to ship out some of their deadwood to progress (Barkley/Drinkwater amongst others).
Despite Liverpool being settled, they’re still being heavily linked with Timo Werner and Koulibaly. It could mean that Firmino or even Salah/Mane get sidelined, but with those additions, they may be back to back champions.
Looking at Man united, the introduction of Bruno Fernandes has boosted them. However, Pogba’s stay is in question still. They also need a good CF, and there are talks of Moussa Dembele of Lyon joining. de Gea for one has declined lately but still is a good-level keeper.
On a scale of least need to greatest need, I’d rank the top six in the following means:
Arsenal/Spurs joint 5th
Finances relative to transfer needs
Needing players is one thing. But who is best placed to change their sides, with the resources at hand? In short, which club has the most resources to spend to alleviate their needs?
United still earns the most of any British club, but City is closing the gap all the time. This was shown in the 2020 Deloitte Money League report, and if City continues to do better than United, they could well overtake their Mancunian neighbours.
In theory, more money means more chances to succeed.
Much is said of our lesser revenues, due to no CL football.
But even Spurs, with their seemingly regular CL football and a new stadium, must get as much money as possible.
Liverpool is coasting on commercial deals and prize monies, and City bar the FFP ban still has access to commercial incomes.
Chelsea too gains much commercially, though talk of increased match-day revenues from their ground’s re-development has ceased for now.
However, if looking at these factors, from least pressing to most pressing, I’d say:
Arsenal/Spurs joint 5th.
What are the implications then for us?
Does this mean we’re going to be hamstrung for a while?
It is true that Man United needs a strategic re-boot as much as we do. But then they have more money, and a larger commercial arm to sustain immense spending.
Chelsea is an interesting case, though their recruitment even before their ban was weak. Drinkwater, Morata, and Kepa were all testaments to this.
I feel for a few years yet, Spurs and ourselves may be the weakest of the big six. Spurs need to strive for CL football and retain their best players to make the stadium move worthwhile. Their manager is used to spending big money on players, and this isn’t something Spurs have really. The NFL games and potential stadium naming rights would give them more, but as they like us rely more a self-sustaining model, they may find it hard.
Rivalry aside, there is a similarity with us. Though our issue is that we’ve coasted when we had regular CL football. We just need a culture of ruthlessness and sound decision-making, which has been lacking for many years now.
Liverpool should be fine, though they need to ensure their team remains fresh. Moreover, Salah and Mane won’t remain youthful forever, and either could leave accordingly to new horizons if desired. Whilst on top, one must have a strategy to remain such, especially with the competition out there.
As for competition, let’s not discount Leicester City, Wolves, Everton and Newcastle.
Leicester isn’t a big club, and cannot outspend others necessarily. But they are exceedingly well-run and will be a thorn in the side of those looking to compete. The same is true of Wolves, though they need to be careful to keep Nuno Espirito Santo tied down as long as possible.
Everton is a historically big club that in PL history has majorly lost its way. With their owners and world-class manager, they are looking to improve on their poor recruitment and perhaps be in the shake-up for the top six.
Newcastle is an interesting case. We’ve seen what they’ve been like under Keegan and the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. With the proper direction, they have challenged. They could well do so again, should the Arab takeover result. This would complicate the affairs of the other big six, especially if competing for players.
So as things stand, even with the resumption of the 19/20 season in the balance still, we’re not looking that great.
Granted, Arteta has done OK in his first-ever managerial job.
But we need a lot, both on and off the pitch, to compete again.
It may seem gloomy, but I don’t see us challenging for the league in any serious form until 2025. We may well win cups or reach finals until then.
But given the competition we’re facing, and the fact we’re in the midst of many years of internal misalignment, it doesn’t look that rosy.
So then, I’m willing to be proven wrong, and win the 2022 Champions League after beating Spurs to 4th place in the 2020/21 season. This after winning the FA Cup this season (when it recommences of course), and a Europa League triumph in the subsequent season.
But one can dream, can’t they?