Can the Gunners win the three-horse race for fourth?

By on March 6, 2019

With ten matches left to go this season, Arsenal are sitting fourth in the Premier League table, a single point ahead of Manchester United. Although some Gunners fans will be hoping that the club can still catch up on deadly rivals Tottenham in third spot, with Unai Emery refusing to really be drawn on what the target is, they definitely want at least fourth place and it seems to be a straight three-way fight with United and Chelsea. So can Arsenal secure a return to the Champions League in Emery’s first season?

There are just three points separating the three teams, although Chelsea have the advantage of a game in hand. One reason for Arsenal fans to be optimistic about the chances of getting fourth place is the fact that – of the three teams – we definitely have the easiest run in. March will present the biggest tests, as we have to play United at home on Sunday following on from our frustrating draw at Tottenham. If we can get a positive result this weekend then we’ll be in pole position. Home games against the likes of Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Brighton are ones that Emery’s team really should be winning. The record against other top teams is something that still needs to be addressed, but under Emery, Arsenal are less likely to drop daft points at home to teams below them than they were in the last few seasons under Arsene Wenger. This means that even if the result against United at home is disappointing, it would not mean the end of our fourth place chances. Arsenal are still in the Europa League, which could prove a distraction during the run in, but it seems unlikely that Emery would risk a top four finish for that tournament.

Aside from the fact that Arsenal finish the season with several games against lower-placed sides, the other reason for hope is that both United and Chelsea have a pretty rough set of fixtures to negotiate. Chelsea may have seen off Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, but they have away trips to Anfield and Old Trafford awaiting them during April. It is really difficult to predict what sort of performance you are going to get from this Sarri Chelsea team, but Manchester City demolished them earlier in the season and no one who is into football betting would rule out the possibility of an in-form Liverpool doing the same. The trip to face a revived United will also not be one that Chelsea fans are looking forward to given the fragility of the team and the importance of that game to both sides will make it a really tense, nervy affair.

Manchester United have picked up form and points since Jose Mourinho was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and they might be more of a threat to our chances of the top four. Despite this, I don’t think that Emery will be having nightmares at the thought of playing them at the Emirates and a win for Arsenal in that game could have the effect of striking a psychological blow in our favour. United are also dealing with a pretty hefty injury list that has Jesse Lingard, Alexis Sanchez, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata among others all out at the moment and that is another reason to feel good about Arsenal’s top four chances. As well as their match against Chelsea at Old Trafford, United have a daunting derby encounter with title-chasing Manchester City and these are games that they will struggle to secure maximum points from with so many key players missing. Then there is the matter of their continued involvement in the FA Cup: we might sometimes wish we were the ones still in the tournament, but the distraction is one that could be costly to United in the high pressure final games of the league season.

Most Arsenal fans would have happily taken a first season under Unai Emery that saw the club back among the top four elite and there is still a very good chance that he can deliver that. It is very tight between the three sides competing for fourth place, but the remaining fixtures give Arsenal a definite edge.