Arsenal face key run of games in pursuit of Champions League finish
Arsenal’s Champions League hopes hinge on horrid run of games that sees them play Wolves, Leicester, Spurs and Liverpool… but if they can get through that Mikel Arteta has a chance of returning them to Europe’s top table
- Arsenal have a chance to qualify for the Champions League despite their form
- Mikel Arteta’s side are currently eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea
- In their remaining 11 games, the Gunners have to play Tottenham and Liverpool
- But they also have a number of games they can be confident in winning
When Mikel Arteta arrived at Arsenal he made one thing very clear: they had to qualify for Europe.
‘We have a lot of things to do but what is clear is the ambitions of this football club. You have to be in Europe, you have to fight for trophies and the rest is not good enough,’ he stated in his first interview.
But despite his proclamation on day one, who would have thought that with 11 games to go in this Premier League season that Arsenal could still finish in the top four?
Arsenal can qualify for the Champions League next season but must be ruthless from now on
Mikel Arteta has overseen a small turnaround but they are still not hitting the heights expected
March 7 – West Ham (H)
March 11 – Manchester City (A)
March 14 – Brighton (A)
April 4 – Norwich (H)
April 13 – Wolves (A)
April 18 – Leicester (H)
April 26 – Tottenham (A)
May 2 – Liverpool (H)
May 9 – Aston Villa (A)
May 17 – Watford (H)
Southampton (A) – TBC
*All subject to change
It may be a slim chance but there is somehow still hope that the Gunners could secure a return to Europe’s top table for the first time since 2016-17.
Given their poor form at the start of the campaign that led to the sacking of Unai Emery, the fact they are in with a shout is more of a reflection of the teams around them rather than as a result of drastic improvement under Mikel Arteta.
Arsenal currently sit 10th in the table with 11 matches to play but they are eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with a game in hand on Frank Lampard’s side.
They need to start picking up wins and face West Ham this weekend knowing nothing but three points will do.
Until Tuesday night the game against the Hammers was the first of three very winnable fixtures but the rearranged trip to Manchester City has been pencilled in for March 11.
Eddie Nketiah celebrates scoring Arsenal’s second goal in the FA Cup win at Portsmouth
Arsenal’s first big test of the run in comes when they travel to Manchester City on March 11
Realistically Arsenal are going to come away from the Etihad empty handed but then have the chance to bounce back with a pair of appealing games.
Nothing less than six points will do from a trip to Brighton on March 14 and a home game against Norwich after the international break with both teams languishing perilously close to the drop zone.
The major stumbling block though is the following four fixtures that will make or break Arsenal’s Champions League hopes, or any chance of them playing in Europe next season for that matter.
The nightmare run starts with a trip to Molineux to play a Wolves side who have a chance of finishing in the top four themselves. Following that they host Leicester, a side desperately trying to cling onto third place.
But then comes perhaps the biggest match in the next few months when Arteta takes his side across north London to play Tottenham for the first time in their new stadium.
Wolves host Arsenal in April with a chance to boost their own Champions League chances
Arsenal host Liverpool on May 2 but the Reds will surely be Premier League champions by then
Liverpool are then the visitors to the Emirates on May 2 but will most likely have the title wrapped up by then and have their attention towards a European clash if they can get past Atletico Madrid.
If Arsenal can get through that period with their top four hopes still intact then they have a real chance of securing fourth place.
Aston Villa may be desperate for points on the penultimate weekend of the season but the Gunners will be confident of securing victory.
They then host Watford on the final weekend of the season, an appealing game considering the prize that may be at stake. Arsenal also have a trip to Southampton to come through but that is yet to be rearranged following their progression in the FA Cup.
Arteta made it clear that he would not tolerate finishing outside a European place when he took over. But surely even he didn’t think Champions League football was a possibility.
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