Football/Soccer

Arsenal and Leicester City supporters should be careful what they wish for

Leicester City fans should never forget that Claudio Ranieri brought them the Premier League title.

MANAGERS and players rarely directly answer those hypothetical questions involving trading off success in one regard against failure in another aspect.

You know the type: ‘Would you rather beat your derby rivals every time and win no trophy? Or lose to them every time and win the league?’

Supporters, though, delight in engaging in such debates.

Surely, though, there can’t be single Leicester City supporter who, if asked just a year ago, would have rejected this proposition: ‘You’ll get relegated in 2017 – but only after winning the Premier League in 2016’.

Heck, there are probably some supporters of Liverpool or Spurs who would take that deal if offered that in relation to this season and next.

The Anfield Reds are going to exceed the 26-year gap between titles that they taunted Manchester United about, while Spurs fans might even settle for finishing above Arsenal one season, even if that didn’t also bring the title back to White Hart Lane for the first time since 1961.

The likelihood is that most supporters of those sides would say ‘no’ to that ‘Champions, then relegated’ prospect, because the latter would be humiliating to a club of their stature.

Yet, with all genuine respect due to Leicester, they’re no strangers to the second tier of English football; they’ve spent more than half their existence outside the top flight, including the decade before their promotion back to the Premier League as recently as 2014.

Supporters of plenty of clubs would surely snap off the hand that offered them the ‘Champions, then relegated’ deal – three-quarters of the entire English League, presumably, given that only 23 clubs other than Leicester have ever been crowned English champions.

Even clubs that have been historically more successful than Leicester – such as Aston Villa, Leeds United, Newcastle United, and Sunderland - plus their east midlands rivals Derby County and Nottingham Forest, would, in all probability, swap places with them now, if they could still call themselves ‘Champions of England’.

Leicester fans might even have agreed to a ‘Champions League, then relegated’ package. The fact that the Foxes are in the last 16 of Europe’s top club competition remains absolutely amazing and astonishing; even more so that they are there as champions of England.

Would Leicester fans really be happier to have finished comfortably clear of relegation last season and then improved on that to be in the top 10 this time around, rather than having the incredible joy of the last campaign? Even if it is followed by the dross of this season?

I can understand Leicester fans being upset by a perceived lack of effort from their players and by poor decisions from their manager.

However, it boggles my mind that some are – and have been for quite some time – calling for their boss Claudio Ranieri to lose his job.

Ranieri should be allowed to depart with dignity, resigning rather than being sacked, whenever he decides.

When he does leave the King Power Stadium for good, he should do so by walking past a solid gold 10-feet tall statue of himself.

Sadly, football fans have embarrassingly short memories.

While Leicester enjoyed the glory last season, Arsenal have long been doing things in style, at least under their current manager.

Yes, Arsenal were a big club long before Arsene Wenger arrived. At that time they had 10 titles, behind only Liverpool and equal in second spot on the roll of honour then with Manchester United.

However, half of Arsenal’s titles had come in the Thirties, and the Gunners had twice gone 18 years without being crowned champions, between 1953 and 1971, and then again until 1989 when George Graham’s team took the title off Liverpool on an unforgettable night at Anfield.

 

Leicester City in the Champions League? Thank head coach Claudio Ranieri.

 

Wenger was not taking over a club that consistently became champions.

For most of his tenure, Wenger has been competing against several richer rivals, yet he has made Arsenal consistently the second most successful side in the top flight on average, after Manchester United.

Chelsea have won the title more often than Arsenal, and look like bringing that crown back to west London, but the Gunners have been more consistent. Wenger’s sides have also been runners-up six times, including last season, albeit for the first time in 11 years.

As relegation is not a realistic option, perhaps the debate for Arsenal fans is `Would you accept several seasons out of the Champions League in return for winning the title once again?’

Most would probably say ‘Yes’. Yet in the real world, Arsenal and Wenger could not take the risk of missing out on the Champions League in order to re-build a title-winning team. Once you are out of the Champions League loop it can be very hard to get back into it again.

Even had Wenger splashed more cash, as fans understandably want him to do, he would probably still have been outspent by Chelsea and Manchester City.

Credit to Chelsea for having the vision to appoint Antonio Conte. The only serious contender Arsenal fans are suggesting as a successor to Wenger is Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid , and he would represent a significant change in style.

That might well be acceptable, given that Arsenal supporters were very happy with George Graham, but Simeone’s hard-working, defensive approach would not necessarily bring the title back to the Emirates Stadium.

As for Arsenal’s Champions League ‘failures’ during this decade, they have often had more to do with enjoying no luck in the draws.

Admittedly it doesn’t look great that they’ve gone out in the ‘round of 16’ in each of the past six seasons, but their conquerors have been Barcelona twice, Bayern Munich twice, AC Milan, and Monaco. Only the latter can you say Arsenal ‘should’ have beaten – and even that exit was on away goals.

Arsenal might part ways with Wenger and bring in someone who takes them to the top again in England , and possibly to become European champions for the first time ever.

Yet it’s extremely unlikely that the Gunners will ever get a manager to maintain such high standards as Wenger.

And as for Leicester winning the title again…?

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Football/Soccer