The fight for the 3rd-6th spot in the Premier League is still very much alive with Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea separated by only 4 points, with only 8 more rounds to be played. With that, they all have a realistic chance to finish in the Champions League next season, but who will it be, and will Arsenal manage to hold on to the 4th spot and return to the CL for the first time after 3 years?
Out of the four competitors for the top spots, there is one, which has the biggest hunger to finally finish among top 4 and claim their ticket for the Champions League next season. That team is no other than Arsenal, who failed to finish in the top 4 for the last two seasons.
But this season, they have a really good chance to finally end the drought and rejoin the European elite. As of now, Arsenal are sitting at the 4th place in the EPL with an overall record of 18-6-6 and 60 points, which puts them only 1 point behind Tottenham at 3rd and 2 points ahead of Manchester United who kneeled down to Arsenal on March 10th in a 2:0 game.
From what we can see, the Gunners found their form in the right moment, while all other teams seem to slowly run out of steam. According to bookmakers and many other football news sites, such as footballtalk.org, team from North London have decent chances to reach finish 3rd or 4th. In addition to playing very well, Arsenal also has a promising schedule ahead of them, as they will not be facing any of the top 6 teams for the remaining 8 fixtures. In their upcoming matches, Arsenal will face off against:
Newcastle (H), Everton (A), Watford (A), Crystal Palace (H), Leicester (A), Brighton (H), Burnley (A) and Wolves (A), which at first glance looks like the perfect schedule for a team to end the season with, but we need to take a closer look at those matches and try to figure out how will Arsenal perform.
Statistically, Arsenal have the best chance to finish in the top 4 and secure the Champions League appearance for the next season. I don’t believe they will end up 4th solely due to their good form, which resulted in Emery’s men grabbing a point from Tottenham (1:1) and defeating Manchester United (2:0), but also due to their upcoming schedule.
As mentioned, Arsenal won’t have to face any other top 6 teams in the remaining matches. Out of 8, the most challenging match that awaits them is the trip to Watford on April 15th and maybe the two fixtures against Wolves and Everton. While Arsenal managed to win the last time they faced Everton (2:0), it is the Wolves who managed to steal a point from gunners in November (1:1) at Emirates. That is basically where the “tricky” matches end for Arsenal.
Unlike for other 3 teams, it’s hard to find any hard matchups for Arsenal in the remaining rounds, with the only three teams that could potentially cause problems being Watford, Everton and Wolves, who to be fair Arsenal can deal with, as they did numerous times before. The remaining matches against Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Leicester, Brighton and Burnley should not cause any problems for Gunners, however, we need to take that with a grain of salt, as away games are not the biggest strength of Arsenal.
Just like the title race, the race for the 3rd and 4th spot is a close one, with 4 teams only separated by 4 points. Not only do all the four teams have to perform well enough in the upcoming Premier League matches, but all four also have European competition commitments.
But there is still the question we need to answer is; will Arsenal manage to finish in the top 4? Despite poor performances of Tottenham recently, Spurs are in my eyes still the strongest team out of four and I do believe they will hold on and finish 3rd. That means we have got Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal left to grab the 4th spot.
Manchester United still struggle with injuries and have lost an important fixture against Arsenal on March 10th, which set them back by quite a lot. While they are a strong team, I do not believe they will manage to pass Arsenal, especially with 2 hard fixtures ahead of them (Chelsea and Manchester City). Chelsea is, in my opinion, the least likely to end up 4th. They have got an incredibly challenging schedule ahead of them with two hard away games against Liverpool and Manchester United. Not only do they have hard matchups to face, but Chelsea are also whole 3 points behind Arsenal who sit at 4th place.
All in all, due to their hard schedule and subpar form, I don’t believe they will be able to close the gap and catch up to Arsenal. And finally we have got Arsenal who have got the easiest schedule, but they will still need to perform well enough on the road, which is where Arsenal struggled this season (5-4-5). But out of the 3 teams, they have the easiest road to the top 4, which is why they are statistically the most likely team to finish in the top 4.
To answer the previous set question; I believe Arsenal can finish 4th this season if they can perform up to par in their upcoming away games, which have proven to be a thorn in their side throughout this season.