Fans of Arsenal have long been the object of quite some ridicule from their more successful rivals. In addition, manager Arsene Wenger's famously stubborn policy when it comes to sanctioning big-money transfers has often left even his most ardent supporters wondering if the club can hope to be genuinely competitive and fight for trophies.
It has now been more than six years since the club last won a trophy and that is far too much of blank space in their trophy cabinet. Moreover, the continued lack of success, coupled with an unwillingness to spend on transfers has seen a few of the club's top players leave; the most notable, obviously, being Cesc Fabregas (to Barcelona) and Samir Nasri (to Manchester City).
However, the fact is (and this is what frustrates some Gunners' fans) that Arsenal are in a strong position, financially. They can afford to make big-money signings and, indeed, the board has specifically asked Wenger to do just that.
Nevertheless, despite the real danger (particularly this year) of Arsenal not even making it to the Champions League next season, the club's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, has made some rather controversial remarks.
Gazidis, quoted in a report in The Sun, has stated that missing out on the Champions League would make no difference to keeping star players like Robin van Persie.
"There are very few clubs in the world that you would go to ahead of Arsenal in terms of consistently being there. I don't see that adversely impacting on our ability to attract players or retain the top players that we have," he is quoted as saying.
The chief executive's remarks were made after the club announced a half-year pre-tax profit of £49.5m on Monday. Arsenal lost £6.1m in the same six-month period in 2010.
Predictably, the fans have not responded well. The same report also quotes Mike Barnett, the spokesman for fans' group "Arsenal FC, not PLC", as saying "that is a ridiculous thing for Ivan to have said".
Arsenal have failed to finish in the top two of the Premier League since the 2004/05 season and although they have managed to retain their Champions League position every year (by finishing at least 4<sup>th in the league), the combination of a lack of trophies and participation in the continent's premier club tournament, may hit the club's coffers rather hard.
Perhaps the biggest example of how different revenue generation could be (and how difficult) for Arsenal is the fact that Tottenham reported a more than £25m rise in revenue, for 2010, thanks to their Champions League games. The figures, published in a Mail Online report, indicated that interim results (from 30 June to 31 December, the club's Champions League debut) saw their revenue increase from £53.3m to £79.8m. The club reported a profit of £4.2m compared to a loss of £6.1m for the same period 2009... all this in their first ever season among Europe's elite. How much more revenue could an established club like Arsenal command?
There is one important question Gazidis must now answer.
Assuming Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League next year (which would mean a loss of approximately £40m in revenue), how does he propose to convince van Persie to stay on?
If he were then to offer the Dutch striker, who is in superb form this season and has been drawing attention from both Barcelona and Real Madrid, a significantly improved contract, could he not do the same now? The funds from which to draw the kind of wages van Persie clearly commands will only go down after failure to play in the Champions League.
Arsenal are currently in 4<sup>th place in the Premier League, with 46 points from 26 games. They next play rivals Liverpool, away, on 3 March.