Arsenal could be left with a more than £40million black hole in their finances this summer if they fail to qualify for the Europa League.
Mikel Arteta’s team crashed embarrassingly out of the competition on Thursday night when they were beaten 2-1 at home by Greek side Olympiakos, to end their interest this year at the round of 32 stage.
It was a disastrous result for the Gunners, who actually saw their 1-0 lead from the first leg, but in a disjointed, bitterly disappointing display saw that advantage wiped out when Pape Abou Cisse levelled.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked like he had won the tie for them when he scored with seven minutes left of extra-time, but once again their fragile defence collapsed and in the dying minutes Youseff El Arabi grabbed the winning goal.
To compound the agony, with virtually the last kick of the game, Aubameyang missed an open goal.
Last season Arsenal earned around £40m from reaching the final of the Europa League, which they lost to Chelsea in Baku.
The Gunners have made no secret of their need to return to Europe’s premier competition if they are to be financially sustainable going forward.
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Broadcast income from UEFA from the Europa League was £36.6m, with gate receipts and prize money on top.
There will also be reduced commercial income, including from sponsors, – and they face a further blow of having to pay more than £4.5m back to season ticket holders a rebate for not reaching the seven cup matches they are guaranteed.
The Gunners will miss out on £8m more in prize money compared to last year. And if they had won the competition – a further £3.4m.
Arsenal’s wage bill has been a major issue in recent years, with director Josh Kroenke saying this summer that the club has “a Champions League wage bill on a Europa League budget”.
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Accounts filed in December, which covered last season, showed that Arsenal’s wage bill increased from £218.9m to £227.3m.
Keeping the likes of Aubameyang, whose contract expires at the end of next season, and Alexandre Lacazette will be made much harder if Arsenal fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Talks over a new deal for Aubameyang have so far progressed slowly although head coach Mikel Arteta remains hopeful of convincing their top scorer to remain at the club.
After three straight wins for Arteta’s men, it was a dismal performance – and it could well be costly. Their best chance of Champions League football next season, which they would have earned had they won the Europa League, has now surely gone.
Arsenal lie ninth in the table right now, some two points off the probable top seven cut off point for the Europa League – and they do have the FA Cup as a means of qualification, though they face a tricky fight round tie at League One Portsmouth on Monday.
But a look at Arsenal’s fixture list tells you that qualification via the league will not be easy. Arteta’s men have 11 games left of their season.
Their next four games all promise that the Spaniard can rouse his men to pick up points against the likes of West Ham, Brighton, Southampton and Norwich.
But the end of the campaign sees a daunting series of games against Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and Liverpool.
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