Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Could Arsenal’s dream of UEFA Champions League return be over?

Posted on 13 May 2022 by Terry Vogt

In sports, failure is a necessary prerequisite to success. One must fall to get back up. However, yesterday’s loss to Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur could prove one fall too far for Mikel Arteta.

His exasperated post-game interview told the whole story, as his side now faces two must-win games in as many weeks.

According to Sky Sports, Arsenal were the favourites to clinch the fourth spot before their game against Tottenham with an 81% chance of clinching the top 4.

Since their 3-0 defeat against their arch-rivals Spurs the chances are now 61% while Tottenham is 39%.  Tottenham has closed the gap on Arsenal. Winning the North-London derby has been huge for Conte.

Setbacks are commonplace in sports. I had a few during my time as an international cricketer. I remember my Ashes’ debut Test match at Perth.

I took 5 wickets in the first innings of the match then was on the receiving end of Adam Gilchrist in the second innings.

So, when I dismissed Gilchrist for a second-ball duck, I thought what was all the fuss about the legendary Australian cricketer.

In the second innings, he scored the fastest test hundred and in the same match, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. This was very grim to digest.

After the game, when we lost the Ashes, I had a chance to review my performance. When things go well everything seems effortless and the game feels slow.

When Gilchrist was on the attack in the 2nd innings I was breathing heavy, everything felt like chaos and the game felt so fast. I just wanted to get out of that place.

This is how it felt yesterday for Arsenal fans. If you wanted to see a perfect game for Tottenham it was demonstrated yesterday.

Home advantage is huge. I felt the same when the Australians reminded me of how rubbish was my fielding or when they said “watch out for Gilchrist he will get you in the second innings”.

They were spot on. Mental toughness in sport and momentum go hand in hand.  Arteta must remind his players of the mantra he lives by the non-negotiables where I was lucky to go into the Arsenal dressing-room.

He lives by his values as a team “Discipline, Leadership, Dominates, Compete”.

This was clearly missing last night. Things won’t get easier when they travel to Newcastle. The crowd will be hostile and they will be celebrating the fact The Magpies, will be in the Premier League next season.

They must be more clinical in front of the goal on Monday in a bid to qualify for the Champions League. According to the legendary Arsenal striker Ian Wright “no way they can steal a Champions League spot from bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur”.

While Arsenal icon Emmanuel Petit has backed Gunner’s boss Mikel Arteta for another busy summer in the transfer market.

He enjoyed a highly productive summer last year breaking the club’s spending record when he brought the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Martin Odegaard, and Albert Lokonga for a combined total of £149 million.

Petit insists “Arsenal squad has some quality, but not enough to compete with Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea.

Arsenal is staring down the barrel of missing out on Champions League qualification for next season but Gunner’s legend Nigel Winterburn believes it would be a “huge disappointment if they fail to qualify for Champions League”.

The Gunners have all to do, for their top 4 pursuits. They have injuries, Kieran Tierney, Thomas Party, Ben White, all arriving at the worst possible time. The young squad has performed impressively at times after winning against Manchester United, Chelsea, and West Ham.

If Arsenal fails to qualify for the Champions League there would be huge question marks over the direction of the club and possible replacement as manager.

It has been since 2016/17 since Arsenal played in the Champions League. They need a striker and with the form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Barcelona who went on a free transfer to join the Catalan giants, it will add pressure on Arteta to bring in a front-line striker to the club.

If they do qualify for Champions League then the dream of signing Christino Ronaldo may finally come true. It certainly won’t stop the Arsenal fans from debating whether Ronaldo will join the summer next year.

I know which side of the fence I want to be taking once the season is over.

Co-written by Terry Vogt and Monty Panesar