The bad news from yesterday's loss to Swansea is that Arsenal no longer holds its second-place destiny in its own hands -- winning out in its last three matches will only get Arsenal 79 points, and Man City, with its current 9-goal advantage over Arsenal in the goal-differential category, could claim second by winning its remaining two games, unless Arsenal's remaining opponents make like the QPR of this past Sunday.
The good news is there are still realistic paths to second place, and for Arsenal to finish fourth, it would require a Gerrard-falling-down-level collapse. Here's the table as it currently stands:
|Position||Team||Points||Max Points Possible||GD||Week 37||Game in Hand||Week 38|
|3||Arsenal||70||79||+32||@Man United||Sunderland||West Brom|
Clearly, the race largely hinges on the results of Sunday's Arsenal-United match at Old Trafford. Several weeks ago, it looked like it'd be the battle for second, but City's recent good run of form combined with United's three-week mini-collapse has led us here.
Here are the three possible scenarios:
If Arsenal beats United (as they did in FA Cup action in Manchester several months prior), they would mathematically affix United to fourth place and avoid the Annual Trip to Turkey.
If Arsenal and United draw, Arsenal could claim at least third with a range of results in its final two games -- including a draw and a loss to get Arsenal to just 71 points, assuming United beats Hull in its final game, yet can't make up the current +7 GD advantage Arsenal holds over United.
If United beats Arsenal, Arsenal's maximum possible points would still be 76, meaning that wins in its final two matches assures Arsenal third, and a win and a draw plus a United win vs. Hull gets both teams to 76 and the aforementioned GD tiebreaker.
The other factor at play when it comes to United is their final-day opponent, Hull, who will likely be playing to avoid relegation. Newcastle's kept things interesting with a late-season collapse which oddly coincided with that point in the season when Newcastle replaced Alan Pardew with John Carver, and if Newcastle keeps their newfound ineptitude up one more week, we might have a legitimate race for 17th place which involves Hull's defense neutralizing Ashley Young.
Arsenal finishes the season against Sunderland and West Brom -- Sunderland's still teetering above the drop zone in 16th place, but with Newcastle and Hull below them, they can lose to Arsenal and Chelsea (their final day opponent) and still stay up, especially if they can muster some sort of result against Leicester this weekend. West Brom, Arsenal's final day opponent, is in 13th place, the ultimate nothing-to-play-for position, and could field 11 members of the Lollipop Guild without any repercussions if they so chose.
City's last two games aren't quite cakewalks either -- there's no guarantee that City gets to 79 points, as they play their final two matches against top-eight teams. Though much is being made lately of Europa League qualification being a bit of a booby prize, Swansea and Southampton are the two teams, out of the four in contention, who would most appreciate Thursday night football, and one silver lining to Arsenal's loss to Swansea is that the still-eighth-place Swans will be more motivated than they might have otherwise been against City. While they will likely fall out of Europa contention if they lose to City, they also have a chance to surpass 7th-place Southampton (playing a revived Villa looking to fully achieve relegation safety) and 6th-place Spurs (playing a desperate-to-avoid relegation Hull) with a win.
While the best-case scenario for Arsenal is to beat United on Sunday and dispense with the drama, anything less brings some level of excitement to the final week, with a Champions League place still secured no matter what.