Arsenal: The Champions League cost in favour of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Philippe Coutinho

Arsenal (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Arsenal (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images) /

The difference in revenue between having and not having Champions League football is stark. It is in favour of Arsenal keeping Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or signing Philippe Coutinho on loan, for instance.

Arsenal are facing a crucial summer window in which their finances will be hugely suppressed. The pressure on the club’s finances, due to poor management and results in recent years and the COVID-10 pandemic postponing play for at least three months and suspending revenue during that span, means that every decision that is made is vital. The margin for error is minimal.

The financial pressures make two key decisions extremely difficult: what to do with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has a year remaining on his contract and could leave for nothing in 2021, and whether to sign older players on a temporary basis, of which Philippe Coutinho is the latest example.

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On the face of it, selling Aubameyang should he refuse a new contract and avoiding Coutinho and other expensive players like him is the best course of action. And in normal circumstances, from a purely financial perspective with regards to the long-term security of the club and team, that would indeed be Arsenal’s wisest path. However, that does not paint the full picture. There is one other crucial aspect that must be considered here: Champions League football.

After last season’s Europa League final loss, which confirmed the Gunners’ status out of the Champions League for the third successive season, Josh Kroenke infamously said that the club has a ‘Champions League wage bill on a Europa League budget’. A year later, little has changed in that regard, and with Mikel Arteta’s side facing an unlikely race to squeeze into the top five if and when the season resumes, it is set to persist for another year.

Arsenal need to look towards the long-term project in their decision-making this summer. But the Arteta rebuild will never get off the ground if the team does not qualify for the Champions League. That is a crucial hurdle to clear, and it will act as a catalyst for Arteta’s plans.

As analysis from Swiss Ramble outlines, Arsenal earned £34 million from reaching the Europa League final last year. He estimates that they will receive £15 million next year after they were dumped out of the competition by Olympiakos at the Round of 32 stage in February.

In comparison, Manchester United and Manchester City earned £82 million each — more than double — for reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Liverpool won the competition and earned £98 million, almost triple Arsenal’s European income, while Spurs, who lost in the final to Liverpool, earned £90 million.

The point is this: Arsenal would earn roughly £60 million more if they reached the same stage in the Champions League as they did the Europa League. If we take this £60 million per year figure as the difference between qualifying and not qualifying for the Champions League, it is easy to see that the financial decisions regarding Aubameyang, Coutinho and others is not so simple.

If Arsenal believe that they can only qualify for the Champions League next season by keeping Aubameyang, they must raise at least £60 million in any sale this summer to make it financially viable. And even then, that relies on finding a suitable replacement, which, as we have seen with Nicolas Pepe, is never guaranteed.

Similarly, if Arteta believes that Coutinho is the difference between Champions League qualification and no Champions League qualification, the approximate £13 million that his wages will cost for the year is a tiny price to pay in comparison.

Next. Arsenal: 3 reasons to sign Philippe Coutinho on loan. dark

Arsenal will not make progress in the Arteta rebuild until they gain Champions League football. It is the first step on a long journey. And they might have to gamble to take it.