Aug 152009

One thing has struck me while reading all the pre-season predictions from supposedly neutral commentators and columnists, and that is how wildly opposed they are in their foretelling.

Broadly, we are either going to challenge hard for the league, or fall out of the top four entirely. Great, or terrible, nothing in between.

And that got me thinking. Just what would be an ‘average’ season? What is the level at which anything better is an achievement, anything worse a disappointment? In a world where many deem Football Manager to be completely realistic (with comments such as ‘Sell A for £10m, B for £15m and you can replace them with C, D and E with money to spare, as if it is that simple), I’m going to shamelessly steal one of the game’s features – expectation level on a per competition basis.

Note – These base levels are neither predictions nor hopes. They are simply the benchmark we need to examine the season by. If we exceed it, the season has an element of success about it, and vice versa.

Premiership – 3rd

I call a third-placed finish the benchmark because I feel fourth would be a disappointment, despite so many saying we’ll finish even lower. If we were to end there again, it would be the fourth time in five years, and it would become increasingly hard to argue that we’re keeping pace with the remainder of the Big Four.

On the other hand, a top two finish would be considerable progress, and would require us to finish ahead of one of United or Chelsea. That, for me, would constitute a success.

Champions League – Quarter-Final

‘Only the Quarter-Final??’ I hear you cry. Ah, but this is the benchmark, remember. If we go out before this stage, it would be a let down, especially as it is a stage we have only failed to reach once in recent times, a defeat to PSV in the last 16. And that season was certainly a disappointment in the competition.

On the other hand, we’ve only reached the semi-finals twice, and last season’s Champions League run has to be considered a good one, irrespective of the disappointing way it ended. The same would be true again.

FA Cup – Quarter-Final

People talk about reaching semi finals, the real ‘business end’ of competitions, and like the Champions League, when you get to the last four, this trophy feels within reach. If we get that far again, it’d be great.

Carling Cup – Semi-Final

If there is one competition we expect success from these days, it is the Carling Cup. So accustomed are we to seeing a group of insanely talented teenagers knocking established Premiership opposition out of the competition that we almost take it for granted. Last season’s quarter-final defeat to Burnley was an exception, an anomaly.

And that in itself puts a massive amount of pressure on the kids, although you wouldn’t know it from some of their sparkling displays. And with access to the squad greater than ever, these players are household names already. There are big hopes, and only an appearance in the final would surpass expectations.


It is likely that last season’s benchmark would be the same as this, which means we exceeded expectations in the FA Cup and Champions League, but slipped in the Premiership and Carling Cup. But one crucial point is that we were only one position or one round from the benchmark in all cases.

So really, last season could be described as adequate, average or any such unflattering adjective that equally does not render it an unmitigated disaster.

Now is the time to take at least one competition, and properly surpass what is merely expected. It is the step you must take to win trophies.

  11 Responses to “What is the benchmark for Arsenal this season?”

  1. The bench mark for us would be not to finish outside the top 4

  2. Are you serious? So you think finishing fourth would be judged as a better season than expected, and therefore a success?

  3. yep finishing 4th to the board will be like winning the champions league

  4. Winning the league or doing any double would be a success!
    I’ve got no worries about Arsenal outplaying the other teams,we just need the midfield players to start SHOOTING frm when the other teams park-the-bus.

  5. Arsenal’s style of football is gonna be a shock for the other teams.BEST TRANSFER for arsenal wasn’t Adebayor but RONALDO leaving the premiership,countless times united have been ont the ropes only for Ronaldo to save the day.ALONSO also leaving HAS also weakened liverpool and chelsea under ‘ANOTHER BIG BOSS’ will be under massive pressure to deliver also.

  6. You forgot to mention that last season we were 20 points behind man u, it was not even close.

  7. I hope we get knocked out by Celtic so Gazidis and Kroenke can tell Wenger “Thank you for everything but now fuck off.” This club is going nowhere. It’s no longer Arsenal, it’s Arseneal, a French control-freak who likes boys.

  8. Simon:

    Going nowhere? How is playing beautiful football, qualifying for Champions League football season-in season-out going nowhere? How is having a sustainable economic model going nowhere?

    You’re counting trophies as the only form of progress. Frankly, you are a narrow-minded fool.

    I would say the Arsenal of the 50s and 60s were going nowhere. The Arsenal of today are going somewhere with a sustainable future and decent results.

  9. Talk about lowered expectations. The season hasn’t started and already some people have given up on winning the league.

  10. our targets must be winning the epl and the cl (yes the double)otherwise its a fail ….
    people must stop saying we r young look at almunia,eduardo,rvp,gallas,roscisky,eboue…
    and pls stop saying we r not buying … last season we bought nasri & arshavin and now vermaleen … buying is not an issue … we must compete on the highest levels … i always believe that ( ARSENAL CAN BEAT ANY TEAM IN THE WORLD … ANYWHERE )

  11. I think some people have completely misintepreted this article.

    These positions are a BENCHMARK, not a target. So if we come third in the league, in my opinion that makes for an average league season. First or second would be good, fourth bad.

    stephen, I know we were 20 points behind United, but we were the same distance behind them in some seasons in the 90s before overhauling it the following year.

    Simon – you are clearly trying to spark up and argument. Get a grip.

    If we want to talk about targets, then I agree with Wenger, we should be targeting winning the league. Simple.

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