Top Four or Trophies?

As Arsenal won the FA Cup leaving Chelsea trophyless for the campaign, an online debate ensued.

The Gunners’ fine performance at Wembley saw them pip their London rivals to silverware as managers Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard both looked for their first trophy as a boss. In the same season however, it was Lampard’s Blue who secured the higher finish in the Premier League which will see them compete with Europe’s elite in the UEFA Champions League next season.

As Arsenal fans and players celebrated their trophy win they were met with criticism by some for not acknowledging the fact they finished 8th, their lowest since the 1994/95 season. This was however their fourth FA Cup triumph in seven years and their sixth cup final in the same period.

So what is preferable? It depends greatly on targets at the start of the season and how the season actually pans out.

At the start of the campaign, Arsenal would have had a realistic target of trying to get into the Top 4 and have a good cup run. Mid-season they of course changed their manager because of poor performances which would ultimately mean they likely had to amend their targets for the season. Arteta came in and added structure and organisation to a side that was devout of it and ultimately gave the fans something to cheer about at the end of a long, hard campaign.

Chelsea on the other hand would have had very similar targets at the start of the season and met them too. A top four finish was secured on the final day with a win against Wolves and a solid cup run was compounded by a trip to Wembley for the final. Despite the defeat, as Lampard said pre-game, you can lose finals because there are two good teams in every final. But Chelsea gave themselves a fair chance and will be disappointed about the result on the day, however fans will be happy with the season as a whole.

If it came down to a straight choice between the two, fans of top sides would often pick a top four spot because of what that brings. A place in the next year’s Champions League competition brings a positive vibe and usually means you can attract the best players to join or stay at your team. For example, if Arsenal had finished fourth there would likely be a lot less talk about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future.

But for fans, and me personally, winning a trophy should be what football is all about. If you ask players and managers they will all tell you that they want to win titles throughout their career. As much as some may claim it to be, finishing fourth is not a title. The feeling of winning trophies isn’t topped by anything.

In 5, 10, 15 even 20 years time, if you ask these Arsenal fans and players about this day at Wembley they will all remember where they were and what they were doing. They’ll remember the feeling as Aubameyang skipped past Zouma and dinked the ball into the net. They’ll remember the euphoria of the referee blowing the final whistle. Chelsea fans will also remember those moments but in a totally different way. Nobody remembers the feeling of finishing fourth unless it’s an abnormality for your club.

I understand the disappointment that some fans will feel at not finishing higher up in the league but if you can’t enjoy or understand someone else enjoying a cup run that ends with your side lifting the trophy at the end of it, then football is probably not the sport for you.

Big clubs are big clubs for the silverware in their trophy cabinet, not the league finishes that result in nothing to show for. It’s why the colour of London is a debate between red and blue, while white is in the background despite their performances over the last half-decade.

So online banter aside, lets not mock Arsenal for celebrating winning a trophy when the ultimate end goal for every single football team on planet Earth is to win trophies.

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