I am concerned.

There is a theory among many that finishing fourth is something of a holy grail. It brings riches, glorious nights against top European opposition, credibility in the football world and excitement for fans. And this is true, to an extent. It does bring all of those things.

Potentially.

What is actually brings is a qualifying round in August, which the new format of the Champions League guarantees is anything but straightforward. Udinese could have knocked us out six months ago, and sent us even further into a downward spin than we were already headed after our horrendous start to the season. But the issues with finishing fourth run deeper than that.

Last week, we heard a lot about Arsenal’s finances, about how our ‘cash in hand’ is tied inextricably to Champions League revenue, and looking back, August held plenty of evidence to back that up. A dearth of signings for months despite a threadbare squad meant that we went into the season not so much on the back foot, but on the hurtling backward trajectory of a bungee run. Only when Champions League qualification was assured did we make our last minute purchases.

I am concerned that finishing fourth could see us witness a repeat. If you finish outside the top four, you know that you are taking a significant financial hit, but at the same time you know where you stand in May. Right from the start of the summer you can plan for a restructure based on your new financial strength (or lack of), and aim to break back into the elusive quartet. Even better, finishing third means that all that lovely money is guaranteed, and you can again plan for the season ahead as soon as the last ball is kicked.

Finishing fourth is different – it leaves you with a difficult choice. You can either plan based on the assumption of losing the qualifying round, and treat qualification as a fantastic bonus, or you can gamble on saving your pennies until the matches are safely negotiated, and hope there is still time to conduct the necessary business thereafter. For me, we took that gamble last year and lost, despite knocking Udinese out. Primary targets were missed, and more crucially our season didn’t start until September, by which time the crisis talk had already begun. It is a mistake we would be wise not to make again.

Of course, ideally we would break the top three, which is where tomorrow’s game comes in. Anything less than a win and I think we can kiss St Totteringham’s Day goodbye for 2012, along with hopes of avoiding a nervy banana skin as our season opens. And I have to admit, part of me wonders if Tim Stillman, in his column for Arseblog, has a point when musing how much of a disaster finishing fifth would really be, if third became unattainable. Next season would certainly feel fresh, even if you could claim that is for entirely the wrong reasons.

Even putting all that aside, tomorrow’s game is huge. We owe Spurs for a few matches in recent years, and we certainly need to break our habit of throwing away two goal leads against them. Bizarrely enough, I’m rampantly optimistic about the game for a reason I cannot put my finger on – perhaps it is the sense that these players would love to stick fingers up at everyone who ever doubted them, perhaps it is the sense that the Spurs bubble is due to wane is the dismal way a deflating, twitching balloon does, or perhaps it is pure blind optimism. I’ve already put a punt on a 4-1 win. Yes, really.

Because imagine if we do win. Our worst season in recent memory coincides with their best, and we still have a chance to catch them? North London is ours, fellas. Always will be.

Enjoy the game.

  26 Responses to “Spurs preview – fourth isn’t critical, but third could be”

  1. i am absoloutely sick of theo walcott, every time he gets the ball he gives it away. hes too predictable. i agree with team above.

  2. I can’t believe you are worried about the difference between finishing 4th instead of 3rd when we it will be a miracle if we even finish 4th. It’s obvious we ain’t making top four this season. Even if we win tonite there’s no way Totts or Chelsea are gonna blow it from here and slip out of the top four. Its over rover, Europa league for us next season. Start talking about that.

  3. lol, budgets will be set on last years financial results, (among other things), not whether or not we qualified after beating udinese. That had no bearing on why the transfers were so late. In fact, wasnt we like at least 40 million profit for the transfers by the udinese game? therefore not even touching our already decided upon budget for the summer

    • Profit was already set, yes, but I don’t think the full extent was confirmed by that point, and for me that was down to two major errors. One was the woeful end to last season, which meant that the CL money wasn’t guaranteed, and the other was allowing the Cesc/Nasri sagas to rumble on throughout the entire summer, so we didn’t have that money available either.

      I know we have ‘cash in hand’ even if we don’t qualify, but even aside from budgets, I think the club made a conscious decision to wait until qualification was assured before spending with an enhanced budget. And it backfired.

  4. You must be on drugs no team has beat us by more that three City since the first two games before Ady and Parker. arrived Do you really think a team who have lost there lasts two games with a stronger team 6 against 0 for will beat Spurs four one. no wonder you cant put your finger on it you must have none.. We beat Newcastle 5-0 drawn with Liverpool a better team with a weakened team Bale Lennon Vaart Saha Ady Modric Defoe Kranjcar Walker will end your season even your extra energy wont help it will mean missed chances and sending offs Spurs 5-2

  5. Great article. Really makes sense to me. As for above comments, why do people find it so hard to see us finishing in 4th. Chelsea are shit at the moment, so It’s a case of who can Fuck up least. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t slam my monthly wages on the table over this, but it’s not unfeasible. Can’t see third though, but it would be great to trim the gap down to 7 points and watch spurs season go all lasagne….

  6. Spurs 56 Arsenal 42 GlllllllllllooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyTotte Hotspurs

  7. So much about the reassurances of the club that CL football is not crucial for the business planning of the club. How did it happen that the self sustainable model became the risky gambling scheme related to the place in the league table?

    Sometimes I tell myself that we’ll be fine and that the current period of relative weakness is just a temporary down. But something inside me tells me that we are in deep deep trouble. A sudden deterioration would be easier to turn around, but the steady worsening lasting since 2007-08 is impossible to be stopped quickly. Too many current problems are the results of the multiple misjudgements in the past on and off the pitch.

    Oh well, the only thing we can do is to get behind the team I suppose. Hope for a big performance and some luck tomorrow.

  8. And related to the 4-th finish: Chelsea’s weaknesses are more in the dressing room, and it will be easier for them to get their acts together. We on the other hand will have to up our game at the business and of the season. When was the last time we did it? So, if you think that 5-th is better than 4-th, you may be a happy bunny in the end.

  9. I am no soccer coach.-The way Arsenal play ie 90% possession and plenty of goals ,is a god send for counter attacking sides like MU and Spurs. There is an excellent article on why the gunners lose speed when they converge on goal and why they concede goals in the Daily Mail..
    If the gunners play like this allied to a reluctance to shoot,it will be gift wrapped for Spurs.
    Which manager /team has contrived to lose leads of at least two goals or even four goals on a regular basis not this season but the last six years.You don’t find trophy winning teams or managers doing this.
    Unless the gunners can stop this self destruct habit,they will only make up the numbers in the cl that is if they can get the 4th spot.

  10. I Am a gunner for life. Unfortunately we are making wrong decisions strategically and tactically. Our transfer policy is based on assumption that bubbles of other clubs who are overspending will burst and the go into economic collapse and we remain a solidly build team with cheaply assembled stars. We believe all we need is one formation and no one will be able to beat us because we keep the ball away from them. We also believe that you don’t need to change your formation or tactics or players for that matter. We will try and try again until we win. I am afraid we have become so predictable it hurts. Even the players don’t believe in the game they play anymore. Wether we finish 4th, 5th or 6th for that matter, is not up to us but up to how, Chelsea recovers from dressing room disaster, Liverpool’ consistency and Newcastle’s hunger. We are a club without ambition.

    • Cheaply assembled squad? This seems to be a general misconception trotted out at every opportunity by you poor dissalusioned gooners.

      Oxley-Chamberlain – £15m
      Gervinho – £10m
      Metersacker – £12m
      Santos – £9m
      Arteta – £10m
      Jenkinson – £1m

      That’s just this summer gone. I would interject, not too cheap, just a poor selection of predominately poor players

      • Wow, Wenger spent £31 million in the last week of the transfer window being open did he? Nope. Which when you bare in mind he also bought Park makes the above comment nonsense.

  11. Seeing Davspurs comments in the light if the weekends result has cracked me up!

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