This week sees the return of the UEFA Champions League, which serves as a timely reminder of where Arsenal hopes to be in the not-too-distant future.
The Gunners will be watching their London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea do battle in the round of 16 stages over the next month against AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund respectively, not to mention Manchester City facing RB Leipzig and a repeat of last season’s final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. Perhaps the Gunners will feel a twinge of envy.
After going into the final three games of the 2021/22 campaign on course to end their five-year absence from European football’s elite club competition only to miss out on a top-four finish by two points, Mikel Arteta and the supporters of Arsenal do not need to be reminded that things could have been very different.
Despite this, finishing fifth meant that we qualified for the Europa League, which was a significant step forward considering that we did not play any European football at all the previous season. And in terms of the upcoming modifications to the requirements for qualification for the Champions League, it is a positive sign that the current leaders of the Premier League finished first in their group prior to the holiday break.
The UEFA Champions League will use a new format beginning with the 2024/25 season when all 36 clubs competing in the tournament will be combined into a single league for the first time. This change was previously announced. This means that the current format of a group stage consisting of 32 teams will no longer be used, and most importantly, as the statement explained: “This will give four more sides the opportunity to compete against the best clubs in Europe.”
However, entry will no longer be granted on the basis of “two clubs with the highest club coefficients that have not qualified automatically for the Champions League’s league stage, but have qualified either for the Champions League qualification phase or the Europa League/the Europa Conference League.” This criterion was previously used to determine which teams were granted access.
Instead, the four additional places that will be created as a result of the increase from 32 to 36 teams competing in the league phase of the UEFA Champions League will be distributed as follows, as was announced on the official website of UEFA back in May 2022 when the modifications were finalized and approved:
The club that finished third in the championship of the association and was ranked fifth overall in the UEFA national association ranking will receive one of the available spots.
It has been decided that the number of clubs that can qualify through the so-called “Champions Path” will be increased from four to five in order to make room for one more domestic champion.
The remaining two spots will be awarded to the associations whose member clubs had the best overall performance during the previous season as a group (total number of points obtained divided by the number of participating clubs). These two associations will each award one place to the club that finished higher in its domestic league’s rankings than the others who qualified for the UEFA Champions League.
It is interesting to note that if this change had been implemented for the current season, England and the Netherlands would have been the two associations to add one club to the Champions League based on the collective performance of their clubs. England would have finished with 21,000 points, while the Netherlands finished with 19,200 points.
If the new rules were implemented one year earlier, England (16.571) and Germany (13.750) would each have an additional club qualify for the Champions League in the upcoming season.
The majority of this conclusion can be drawn from how each of the seven Premier League teams has performed in each of this season’s three European competitions so far. As was mentioned earlier, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Liverpool have all advanced to the round of 16 in the Champions League. Manchester United will take on Barcelona in a play-off for the knockout round of the Europa League, and West Ham United finished first in their UEFA Conference League group with a perfect record of wins.