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Opinion

Arsenal can still secure Champions League qualification

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Roar Rookie
10th June, 2020
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Champions League football has been a staple for Arsenal over the last two decades.

But since Arsene Wenger relinquished his post as Gunners manager in April 2018, Arsenal has struggled mightily to simply secure fourth spot, let alone seriously challenge for the Premier League.

With COVID-19 causing havoc with the English football calendar and after Arsenal sacked manager Unai Emery due to poor results, they once again face the real possibility of missing out yet again.

Or do they?

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal sit a miserable ninth in the league on 40 points having won just nine games out of their 28 played. They are behind Tottenham, but do have a match in hand. The Gunners sit eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with ten games to go, a lead that is not insurmountable by any means, let alone fifth-placed Manchester United, who sit on 45 points.

However, Arsenal may not need to finish fourth to secure Champions League football, thanks to Manchester City and their current European ban. As it currently stands, the side that occupies fifth place at the end of the season are in line to qualify for the Champions League because of Manchester City’s ban from Europe.

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This is of course assuming that City finish in the top four. They are currently second with a match in hand as well as four points clear of third-placed Leicester City. If the ban is not nullified on appeal then the remaining Champions League spot would go to the next highest finishers in fifth.

Looking are Arsenal’s remaining fixtures, they could very well secure European football, even if it does seem unlikely at this stage.

The Gunners restart their season with a daunting trip away to Manchester City. They have been City’s whipping boys lately with the Citizens managing a comfortable 3-0 win away at the Emirates last time out. But that was a vastly different Arsenal to the side they are now.

Arsenal Head Coach Mikel Arteta

(Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Assuming the Gunners come up short at the Etihad, their next four fixtures are very winnable: Brighton (away), Southampton (away), Norwich (home) and Wolves (away). Arsenal could easily win all four matches, but Wolves away is a tough trip and the spoils could be shared. I have them going 3-1 over this stretch before a seriously tough end to an already bad season.

After their away trip to Wolves, Mikel Arteta’s managerial credentials will be put the test over a punishing three-week stretch. They welcome third-placed Leicester, travel away to arch rival Spurs and welcome champions-to-be Liverpool, a series of matches that could either end Arsenal’s season with a whimper or put them in an unlikely position to do what no one sees them doing.

I see the Gunners drawing with Spurs and Liverpool and getting the three points over Leicester. Arsenal close out their campaign with Aston Villa away and welcome Watford to the Emirates – two matches they should win.

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That would put the Gunners’ final tally of points at 61. Tottenham finished fourth last season with 71 points. The 2017-18 Liverpool side were fourth with 75 points and again in 2016-17 with 75 points. This does not bode well for Arteta and his side in their hopes of securing Champions League football.

A lot of things would have to go right for Arsenal to squeeze into the European places: win most of their remaining fixtures, shore up the defensive side of their game and most importantly, utilise their wealth of attacking options led by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who currently sits third in the golden boot standings with 17. He would have to see his tally climb to at least 25 by the end of the season for Arsenal to stand a chance.

In what has already been a horrendous season for the Gunners, Mikel Arteta has shown that there is good progress being made and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But finishing in the Premier League’s top four or five might be a bridge too far at this point in time.

But in a season that has been full of twists and turns, could we potentially see one more? Odds are against them, but this young, hungry Arsenal side have nothing to lose.

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