At the start of the season, not one person tipped Arsenal to finish in the top four. However, with a few weeks left of the season, Unai Emery has rallied Arsène Wenger’s rejects to push for the inconceivable.
UEFA Champions League football for next season would completely transform the club’s revenue, thus allowing them to sign and attract more high-profile players in the summer. The Gunners have participated in the competition for close to three years now, and perhaps sooner than expected, Emery may be taking them back to the promised land.
How would you rate Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top four?
It’s funny to think that now if the Gunners were to finish outside the top four, it’d be considered a disappointing season. But that’s just testament to how good of a job the Spaniard has done. Imagine what he could achieve next season as he works towards moulding his own squad at the Emirates.
At first, it was perceived that Arsenal had the easiest run-in of the top four contenders as they no longer had to play anyone within the top six. On face value, this seemed correct, but pundits seemed to forget that most teams in the league are still fighting for something. More importantly, they severely underestimated the ‘best of the rest’ aka Watford, Wolves, Leicester & Everton, four teams that are fighting for 7th place. If Manchester City wins the FA Cup, the 7th placed team will play Europa League football.
On Wednesday night, the Gunners’ top four hopes were dealt a serious blow as they fell succumb to a 3-1 defeat to Wolves. Nuno Santos’ team simply ripped apart the Gunners at will, they exposed Arsenal’s defensive frailty and rendered them toothless in attack. This means Unai Emery’s men have now lost three games in their last four, on a supposedly ‘easier’ run-in.
Perhaps due to the team’s abysmal away form, two of those defeats weren’t a surprise but the fans were banking on their home record. To lose 3-2 at the Emirates to Crystal Palace is nothing short of a disgrace and shows the Gunners are bottling when it most matters.
Relying on others
With a vital 1-0 win over Brighton, it’s fair to say that Tottenham has all but secured their top four status, leaving the Gunners to compete with Chelsea and Manchester United. The advantage for Arsenal is the fact that their two rivals still have to play each other this Sunday, meaning points will definitely be dropped.
Regardless, Arsenal’s fate is no longer in their own hands. If Chelsea wins all of their remaining games, they will finish in the top four. But that’s only if they can get past a wounded United side who will definitely be looking to appease their fans. If Chelsea fails to win, then the Gunners will have top four qualification in their own hands again. If not, then there’s only one other option.
Plan B: Europa League
Unai Emery must go all out and become the only manager to ever win the Europa League four times. Only three games stand in the way of Arsenal and winning the Europa League, with the toughest team remaining being Chelsea, there’s no excuse for the Gunners not to win the competition. This way, Emery could win a trophy in his first season at the club, thus setting a precedent for the upcoming years.