EPL 2016/17: How Arsenal can still qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season
Arsenal are coming to the end of another Premier League season that follows an expected pattern. A few question marks persist over the summer signings, in this case Shkrodan Mustafi, Granit Xhaka and Lucas Perez. The Gunners start slow but pick up the pace and stay in and around the top of the table as the year ends.
The turn of the year slowly changes fortunes with February generally leading to a loss in form and the Gunners are knocked out of the title race and the Champions League. This year, Arsenal lost heavily to Bayern Munich in the round of 16 of Europe’s top-tier competition.
A late return to form sets Arsene Wenger’s side on a good streak that helps them finish in the top four, ensuring Champions League football the following season. In few of the seasons, they win the FA Cup as well to sign off in style. This year has also been similar but for a little twist in the tale. Arsenal are in danger of missing out on Champions League football next season.
The Gunners are currently 5th in the league table, a point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United and three points behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in 4th place. Further ahead, Liverpool have a four-point lead over Arsenal but have played a game more.
|#||Team||Matches Played||Points||Goal Difference|
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs are assured of second spot this season unless they lose their last three games. This leaves four clubs fighting for the final two spots and Arsenal are right in the mix. Manchester United are looking to enter Champions League next season through the Europa League route. Mourinho playing a weakened side in his team’s loss to Arsenal further adds proof.
This leaves Manchester City and Liverpool. City are in fine form and are looking ominous to finish in the top four. The squad at Pep Guardiola’s disposal possesses quality and experience, which implies they are relatively in a better position but one can never be sure until the finish line is crossed in the Premier League.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have recovered to an extent from the January debacle, but injuries to key players have destroyed their rhythm and now Jurgen Klopp’s men are stuttering as they try to cross the top four finish line. The Reds face West Ham away and Middlesbrough at home in their final two games, and in their current predicament, they can be expected to drop points.
|Game Number||Opposition||Date||League Position (after GW 36)|
|36||Stoke City (A)||13th May||13th|
|37||Sunderland (H)||17th May||20th|
Looking at Arsenal’s remaining fixtures, a visit to the bet365 stadium is a potentially tricky encounter as Stoke are bound to pose a good threat. However, bottom-placed Sunderland are already relegated and have nothing to play for. Although Everton are the bigger threat with the likes of Romelu Lukaku up front, the Gunners have lost just once in the last 24 league seasons at home to the Toffees.
Arsene Wenger’s side definitely have the quality in Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck to win three out of three. While that may not be sufficient to finish in the top four if Liverpool and Manchester City win their remaining games, the form of Liverpool and nature of the league definitely gives Arsenal a chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season.