Arsene Wenger says failing to qualify for the Champions League next season would not be a disaster for Arsenal

James Benge
Evening Standard
David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsene Wenger says it would not be the end of the world if Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League this season.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss at West Bromwich Albion saw Arsenal cede further ground to the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United in the battle to secure a top four berth behind runaway leaders Chelsea.

Speaking after the defeat Wenger said he had decided whether or not he was staying at Arsenal, further revealing that he would clarify his plans for next season “very soon”. It is understood he has been offered a two-year contract extension.

Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal has brought with it a near-guarantee of Champions League football – they have qualified in every full season he has managed them – and the Gunners have often made dramatic rallies in the closing weeks of the season to overhaul their rivals and secure a top four berth.

But competition for the Champions League spots has perhaps never been fiercer than this season and Wenger said any further decisions on his future would not be based on the fight for European football.

“I have taken a bigger perspective than [recent results],” Wenger said. “It’s not the last result that will decide whether I’m going.

“I’ve been in the top four 20 times. It’s not that [which will dictate my future].”

Indeed there is an argument to be made that an absence from continental competition could do Wenger’s men good.

Chelsea have reaped the rewards of their failure to qualify for the Champions League under Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink this season, with Antonio Conte’s men having played nine fewer games than the Gunners and established a sizeable lead at the top of the table.

Wenger was in no mood to speculate as to whether an absence from Europe might spur Arsenal to challenge for the title next season but he did acknowledge that, thanks to the rich rewards broadcasters pay for Premier League football, it would not be the end of the world for the Emirates finances if his team failed to reach the Champions League.

Asked whether failing to qualify for the Champions League was a disaster for Arsenal Wenger said: “No I don’t think so anymore. For a long time that was the case.

“On the sporting front it would be a blow but financially the Champions League doesn’t have the impact it had five-six years ago because of the television money.”

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