Failure at Champions League have become almost identical with both Arsenal FC and AC Milan in past few years and now time has come to assess whether both these clubs are really worthy of a “giant” tag?
Arsenal and AC Milan: Both are clubs of repute and brand value of these two is almost at par with other giant clubs like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Manchester United. However, failure at Champions League have become almost identical with both Arsenal and Milan in past few years and now time has come to assess whether both these clubs are really worthy of a “giant” tag?
Current situation of both these clubs is almost identical too. Both are all but out of Champions League and written off from domestic title race as well (although Arsenal are at 2nd spot in EPL, they do not have a realistic hope of winning it). Second round tie of Champions League was also played in identical manners as both failed to even score a single goal on their home turf.
In Wednesday’s Round of 16 games, holders Bayern defeated Arsenal 2-0 at The Emirates while Atletico scraped past AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro.
Toni Kroos opened the scoring in London for Pep Guardiola’s side when he curled a stunning right-foot shot into the top corner in the 54th minute. Second-half substitute Thomas Mueller headed the second goal for Bayern in the 88th minute following a cross from Philipp Lahm.
What proved again in the past two nights in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Manchester City and Bayern Munich’s 2-0 stroll against Arsenal is that the Premier League can’t buy the best players. They can buy most players, but not the very best.
Like Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid were also identified as favourites after they were paired with AC Milan during the Champions League round of 16 draw back in December. Atleti were pinned back in their own half for large spells of the game, with Mario Balotelli in particular impressing for the Rossoneri, and the final result was rather flattering for Diego Simeone’s men.
It’s no coincidence that the Vicente Calderon side find themselves in pole position to make it to the quarter-finals of the competition, though. While Mesut Ozil and his team mates failed to hand Arsenal the much needed character in their tie with Bayern Munich as Gunners had yet another failure against German giants, Atletico’s star players did deliver when it mattered most.
It can be safely argued that recent failures of Milan and Arsenal are largely because of single critical factor: mismanagement of transfer window.
With the emergence of Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG: clubs financed by petro dollars of Russian and Arab investors, traditional giants like Milan have found it difficult to maintain their revenue streams at par with them and as a result struggle to attract top quality talent.
The gap between the elite clubs and the rest is growing. The body that ratifies all international transfers, FIFA TMS, revealed last month that only five clubs spent almost one quarter of the £2.5 billion spent in 2013, and two of them, Manchester City and PSG, were in action this week. FIFA TMS called this new wave of elite spenders ‘super-clubs’.
However, increase in the spending power of ‘super-clubs’ is not the only reason of Milan and Arsenal’s debacle. Some of their latest dealings in the transfer window raise a question whether both clubs really have any transfer policy or not?
Arsenal were in dire need of world class striker in summer as Giroud is the only striker in their squad. Wenger’s squad also needs quality defender into their ranks. However, north Londoners ended up in paying whopping 48 millions to Real Madrid for winger Mesut Ozil. Area wher they already have plenty of depth. Considering all his talent, 48 millions is way too high for Ozil and his yesterday’s performance was proof of this.
Arsenal recently disclosed their half yearly financial results which showed healthy financial condition and despite this, Wenger did not spend a single penny in January. Arsenal are still in a position to challenge for Premier League title but considering their squad depth and of course, apparent quality of players as compared to City, Chelsea and even Liverpool, it would be a big surprise if they win it in coming May.
Arsene Wenger and Arsenal also have a lesson to learn from their yesterday’s opponents Bayern Munich. Why weren’t
they looking to bring in a player like Mesut Ozil last summer? We saw why last night. Bayern were better than Arsenal in everything they did, but mainly in work-rate and attitude.
Similar to Arsenal, transfer policy of AC Milan is also questionable. Amidst the departures of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovich, clubs CEO Adriano Galliani claimed that Milan will now focus on youth. The players signed in last summer window made the mockery of his own words. Despite their financial trouble Milan spent whopping 12 million euros on a 30 year old player with hardly any talent: Alessandro Matri. Milan also signed Real Madrid bench warmer Kaka and Galliani claimed that 31 year was his trademark signing. Result of such transfer fiasco: Milan sit at lowly 7th spot in Italian Serie A and on verge of Champions League exit.
Unlike Arsenal, Milan do not have their own stadium yet and it has huge impact on their revenue generation ability. Boardroom battle at San Siro is also well documented in the past as Barbara Berlusconi, daughter of club owner Sylvio Berlusconi trying desperately to get rid of influential Adriano Galliani. Such politics is not helping the cause and Milan are in dire need of revolution, both on the field and off the field.
With all the aforementioned problems faced by Arsenal and AC Milan plus growing power of other traditional giants Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich; time is running out for both really fast. If necessary changes are not made, Football world might witness a debacle of two “giants” in coming years. Memories of Liverpool downfall are still fresh.