Four games to go for Arsenal and Tottenham. Objective: Qualify for the Champions League. How do you feel? Excited? Nervous? A bit of both?
My belief was that there was simply no way back for us after losing 3 games in a row that we were expected to win. Some will say that’s me being negative, but it was just how I felt at the time. The team initially struggled to adapt without our first choice full-backs and midfield lynchpin Thomas Partey.
Barring Southampton (A) against whom we lacked efficiency in the last third, the games against Brighton and Palace were characterized by a lack of control in the first half, which ultimately ended up costing us.
I went into the Chelsea game with absolutely no expectations. Honestly, I had given up on Champions League hopes. In fact, I was starting to worry about the slim possibility of finishing outside the top 6…
Then, the unthinkable happened. In what was a game reminiscent of the 3-5 win in the 2011/12 season, Arsenal played fearless front-foot football and ended up getting 4 goals! Eddie Nketiah was the hero and the Hale-end boys stepped up to the plate!
Using this momentum, we accumulated wins against Man United at home and West Ham away. The performances haven’t been totally convincing in these two, but we still ended up getting the 3 points. This is all that matters for now. Special mentions to Mo Elneny and Eddie Nketiah, who have come in and played an influential role in changing the mood. Xhaka has played impeccably well recently and Rob Holding has been as solid as a rock whenever he’s been asked to fill in.
This 3 game-winning run against very tricky opponents, with a number of players missing for us has come from nowhere. Well done Arsenal. Well done to Mikel Arteta. He found a solution and a way to adapt to Tavares’ strengths which I touched upon in my previous article. To make things even better, Tottenham, in typical Spursy fashion, slipped up in a couple of games, losing to Brighton (thanks Potter) and gaining a very fortunate point away to Brentford, who were unable to capitalise on the several chances they created…
As a result of this, we’ve gone from being 3 points behind Spurs as of the 16th of April to now going 2 points ahead! Having said that, our job is FAR from done…
Best case scenario: Arsenal beat Leeds at the Emirates, as expected. Tottenham lose to Liverpool at Anfield, as expected. Then, we have a 5 point-gap going into the NLD. A win at their backyard mathematically ensures top 4 and we can all sit back, relax and enjoy the last 2 games which would be inconsequential!
A more likely scenario: Arsenal beat Leeds, Liverpool beat Spurs. The NLD ends in a draw. As a result, Arsenal need to win one out of their remaining last 2 games to assure top 4, possibly going into the last game week cause Newcastle at St.James’ Park are a strong side. I also believe that Burnley will be a super tricky fixture for Spurs. They already held an L at Turf Moor. Tottenham aren’t good at breaking down an organised unit. So it is plausible they drop points against Burnley and we’re through anyway. Spurs play before us for the remainder of the season, so if they end up dropping points to Burnley, the last 2 games are inconsequential.
Worst case scenario: A Jesse Marsch masterclass holds us to a draw this weekend. Tottenham grind out a point at Anfield. We go into the NLD with a 2-point lead. Son curls one from outside the box after Arsenal miss several chances and Spurs go into the last 2 games with a point ahead and win both of them… Ouch! But I do think this is highly unlikely, personally….
Arsenal have a couple of tricky fixtures in there but no ‘unwinnable’ fixture like Liverpool (A). Yes, Spurs are good against teams deploying a high line but Liverpool are a different kettle of fish. For me, Liverpool will have a relatively straightforward win this weekend.
Let’s focus on our performances. Defeat Leeds at all costs and we’ll be in a commanding position. It doesn’t matter how the win is. As Arteta stated, speaking after the West Ham win, “In England, you say ‘win ugly’, I think from my point of view today we won ugly, and I’m extremely happy to see a team that has this capacity to find a way to win and show the character that they showed today.”
This is the closest we’ve been to securing Champions league football through the league since 2017. In 2019, the race was done after we bottled it against Crystal Palace in April.
The bottomline is that top 4 is in our hands. We’ve got so far, it’s now time to keep the momentum going and apply the finishing touches.
See you in the comments, I’m intrigued to know what you think will happen in this race. Have a great Tuesday!