Why Arsenal are the biggest club in London: An in depth look
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
It’s a debate that has been swirling around the internet in the last 5 years, with football twitter users utilising their mediocre platforms to spread their diabolical opinions for clout, and ‘know it all’ pretentious writers like me adding fuel to the fire by producing articles like this. It’s a debate that doesn’t really actually matter, but with stuff to write about at such an austere shortage at this point in time, I thought I’d clear it all up. Hth.
Who are the kings of Europe’s largest city? Is it red or blue (or white lol)? Before 2012, this wasn’t even remotely a cause for debate. Arsenal were so far clear, if you even thought of suggesting that London was blue you might as well have never watched football again. The sport simply wasn’t for you.
Now, however, the tables have turned (slightly). The Gunners have been on a steady decline in the past decade, whilst Chelsea have enjoyed success after success, clinching the Champions League title in 2012, before winning 2 more League titles and a handful of domestic trophies. Arsenal’s response to this was to win 3 FA Cups, whilst Spurs’ was victory in the Audi Cup- a great triumph in their remarkable history littered with success.
Some will argue that Chelsea’s resurgence after the Russian oil money came in sees them leapfrog the North London side, whilst others will argue that the entire history of the club outweighs success over a 15-year period, and thus Arsenal are still clear. Naturally, as a gooner, I’m inclined to argue the latter and, assessing all factors that contribute to the size of a club, I don’t quite see how anyone could argue anything different.
Firstly, looking at major honours, despite Arsenal’s lack of European silverware, they still trump Chelsea, and by a long way. The North London club boast 7 more League titles to their name, having claimed 13 compared to Chelsea’s 6 (5 of which have come since that Russian sugar daddy pumped in his billions). League titles also arguably bare more weight than cup competitions, with winning a trophy based off of 38 games of consistent high performance compared to scraping through some knockout ties where you don’t have to play well to proceed, a better achievement. Chelsea undoubtedly have a better record in Europe, having won the Champions League in 2012 and the Europa League twice since then. Arsenal’s absence on the continental stage will unfortunately always be burden to them in this argument.
Arsenal do, however, trump Chelsea in the most prestigious domestic cup competition. Their 13 FA Cups is not only the most of any club that has participated in the competition, it’s also 5 better than Chelsea’s mere 8. Chelsea do dominate the League Cup conversation, having won it 5 times to Arsenal’s disappointing 2. Other random honours such as the Community Shield and Super Cup do not register as major in my eyes, with one off matches that you only get to take part in if you’ve won an actual trophy not really meriting a place in this comparison. This includes competitions that no longer exist (probably for a reason), such as UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
This tallies to 28 Arsenal major honours to 22 Chelsea major honours. Arsenal clear by some distance. Yes, Chelsea fans will raise the European success argument, but how substantially further ahead Arsenal are in the domestic standings sort of evens this out.
You also have to acknowledge when these honours were won. Just 6 of Chelsea’s major trophies were won before Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003. Whilst 16 trophies in 16 years certainly represents a phenomenal period of success, 6 trophies in 98 years prior to this suggests Chelsea were nothing but a small club from West London, who very rarely picked up some Silverware, for the majority of their history. In fact, this works out to about a trophy every 16 years. For some context, Tottenham’s current trophy draught has just eclipsed 12 years. This extreme upturn in fortunes for the club from 2003 suggests the entirety of Chelsea’s ability to exist in this argument is down to one man’s investment.
Arsenal’s success on the other hand has been sustained. They’ve won trophies in every single decade since the 1930s barring the 60s. They’ve had teams that have dominated decades, such as the Herbert Chapman side that won 7 trophies in 8 seasons in the 30s, and the 90s and noughties, which saw the club claim 5 trophies in each. Since winning their first major honour in 1930, they’ve won a trophy every 3.2 years. Sustained success is vastly superior to sporadic success and then a flurry of success in a short space of time.
On top of all of this, Arsenal have spent significantly more years in the top flight of English football, whilst also registering a higher average finishing position than their West London counterparts. Arsenal’s history is clear.
History is certainly the largest contributing factor to determining the size of a football club. However, the other element to it is the club’s stature and fanbase on a global scale. Whilst Chelsea have come on leaps and bounds in this area in the last 10 years, they still have drastic strides to make to catch up with Arsenal. According to recent reports and studies, Arsenal have a global fanbase of 150 million people (supposedly the fourth largest in the world), and whilst this is certainly a very rough estimate, it’s not hard to believe. The club possesses huge supporter’s groups in Australia, America, areas of West Africa, South East Asia and Eastern Europe.
Chelsea’s global fanbase size is currently estimated to be just over the 100 million mark (sitting 6th in the world). Popular areas include South America, North America and Asia. Arsenal’s global infrastructure and brand is substantially larger than Chelsea’s. It’s a bigger name worldwide and holds a greater impact on the population, influencing the lives of many more people.
Basically, that’s about it. If you still think London is blue, you’ve got your head in the sand. You’re an ostrich. I hope this helped.