Declan Rice & an extra £70m: What Champions League football would mean for Arsenal

Arsenal Champions League GFX
Victory over Southampton on Friday will see the Gunners back at the top table of European football for the first time since 2017

Arsenal are just one win away from guaranteeing themselves a return to the promised land. It’s been more than six years since the Gunners last graced the Champions League, but victory against Southampton on Friday will guarantee that Mikel Arteta's side will be back competing in Europe’s top club competition once again.

Clearly, there is far more at stake for Arsenal this season, with the Premier League title still on the line.

But guaranteeing Champions League qualification for 2023-24 will be another important milestone in the club’s route back to competing with the best Europe has to offer.

So what will a return to the Champions League mean to Arsenal going forward?

  1. The end of a long journey 

    The end of a long journey 

    Before we get into what the return of Champions League football will bring to Arsenal in terms of finances and squad building, the first thing that must be said is that it will bring to an end a long and difficult journey for the club.

    It’s been six years since Arsenal were last in Europe’s most prestigious competition. For a club that had been used to dining out at the top table for so long, that has been incredibly hard to deal with.

    Fans have had to endure some pretty miserable moments in the Europa League, including the mauling by Chelsea in Baku and the disappointment of Olympiacos, Sporting CP and Villarreal.

    So to be able to put that period behind them and once again walk out at Emirates Stadium on a Champions League night will be absolutely huge for everyone connected to the club. It will also be a real symbol of just how far they have come in such a short space of time.

    It wasn’t long ago that Arsenal were bottom of the Premier League after the worst start to the season in the club’s history. Now they can soon start preparing for a return to the biggest club competition in the game.

    It will be a very special moment when that Champions League anthem is played at Emirates Stadium for the first time next season.

  2. A huge financial boost 

    A huge financial boost 

    Clearly, this will be a huge thing for Arsenal and owners Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE)

    They’ve had to operate without the riches of the Champions League since 2017, and even though they have still spent well during that period, the extra cash that it will bring will be most welcome.

    The difference between what’s on offer in the Champions League and Europa League is vast. UEFA figures for the 2021-22 season show that in the Champions League just over £1.76 billion ($2.2bn) of revenue was shared between the clubs involved. That fell to £409m ($509m) in the Europa League.

    When Arsenal reached the Europa League final in 2019 and were beaten by Chelsea, they received just £32m ($40m) in total revenue from that run through the competition. Chelsea, as winners, received £39m ($48.5m).

    Compare that to last season in the Champions League, when Chelsea pocketed just over £80m ($99.5m) for reaching the quarter-finals, and it shows you just how big the difference can be.

    Manchester United meanwhile, who topped their group, but then were knocked out by Atletico Madrid in the last 16, still received around £68.5m ($85m).

    That is what will be on offer for Arsenal next season.

  3. Spending big in the transfer market 

    Spending big in the transfer market 

    More money will bring more opportunities in the transfer market.

    Arsenal have still spent well since 2017, but the extra cash that will be coming the club’s way will certainly help when it comes to continuing the squad rebuild that Arteta and Edu have been undertaking.

    The focus this summer will be on adding real quality, with Arsenal looking to sign players they believe could make an immediate impact on the squad.

    Declan Rice is a priority target, and the expectation is that Arsenal will push hard to see off real competition from Chelsea to land the West Ham captain.

    Signing a player like Rice, given the potential price tag and the level of rival clubs also in the mix for the England international, would have felt almost impossible at Arsenal just a short time ago.

    But the journey they have been on, and with Champions League football on the horizon, it is now a very distinct possibility. 

  4. A more attractive proposition

    A more attractive proposition

    To sign players of the stature of Rice, you have to be an attractive proposition. Arsenal have always been one of those, but being able to offer Champions League football just takes it up another level.

    Every single top player wants to play in Europe’s elite competition. If you can’t offer that, especially if you are battling with rival clubs that can, then you are always at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiations.

    So Arsenal having the lure of the Champions League once again will only make it easier to land their priority targets, something they have struggled to do at times in recent years.

  5. Key contracts will be easier to agree

    Key contracts will be easier to agree

    It’s not just about signing new players, but keeping the ones you already have at the club.

    Bukayo Saka, for example, is desperate to start his Champions League career, and he will now be able to do that at Arsenal.

    The Premier League leaders have been in contract talks with Saka for some time now and it is believed that a deal has been agreed in principle with the winger.

    Being able to offer Champions League football to Saka next season will have been key to convincing him to stay in north London, rather than look elsewhere when it comes to taking the next step in his career.

    The same goes for William Saliba as well, while the likes of Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White will all soon have to be given fresh terms.

    Arsenal’s success will have led to top clubs from across Europe looking at their star names, and so it will be much easier to keep them away from their rivals by being able to offer them Champions League football at the Emirates.

  6. No more Thursday nights
    Getty Images

    No more Thursday nights

    The dreaded Thursday night game. It’s been an ongoing issue for Arsenal since they dropped down into the Europa League.

    Having to balance those games and the long trips across Europe with demanding Premier League fixtures at the weekend has never been easy.

    So there will be a big relief that, for now anyway, the club can just focus once again on the more traditional Tuesday or Wednesday night fixtures.

    That should make the fixture workload slightly easier to handle for Arteta when it comes to managing his squad, something that will be very important with the demands of competing in Europe’s top competition again.