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Fourth place trophy watch: three games to go

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What has to happen - with Arsenal and with other teams?

24th Annual Race To Erase MS Gala - Inside
not the table Arsenal need to climb up
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Race To Erase MS

After looking dead and buried for a top four finish just a month ago, Arsenal find themselves with a chance to sneak themselves into that Top Club Club again and continue Wenger’s streak of not missing the Champions League.

Arsenal are, of course, already in the Europa League next season; the FA Cup winner automatically gets a spot, so if the FA Cup winner has already qualified for the Champions League, that spot goes to the FA Cup runner up. There is, however, a path - it’s a very narrow path, but it’s still a path - to Arsenal extending their Champions League qualification streak. Arsenal need some help, but here’s how they get to fourth place (or better).

THE TABLE AS OF NOW:

Everton is probably out of top four contention unless Arsenal utterly collapse, so I included them in the above image because Arsenal may yet utterly collapse. Assuming they don’t, though, Arsenal are the lowest placed club with a realistic shot at the top four.

Arsenal’s run-in is:

- Stoke away
- Sunderland home
- Everton home

Arsenal have 9 points still to play for. Win out, and that leaves Arsenal with 75 points. Tottenham can finish with a max of 86, Manchester City can get to 78, Liverpool can top out at 76, and Manchester United can end up at 74. All four teams aren’t going to win out; Tottenham play United on Mother’s Day, and given that there’s no way Arsenal can overtake Tottenham, I have no problem wanting Spurs to win that game, because it helps Arsenal.

That is the only remaining fixture between two teams above Arsenal, but there’s another team that can figure heavily in the run-in, despite their own lack of involvement in it. Leicester City play at City on the 13th and host Spurs on the 18th, and they’re playing so well of late under new manager Craig Shakespeare that there’s a realistic chance they take points off both.

The obvious target on this list, though, is Liverpool. Arsenal have two games in hand over them, and if Liverpool drop points at either - or both - that’s one small sliver of daylight to take inspiration from. Liverpool’s next game is at West Ham, who are currently riding high after shutting down Tottenham’s nine game win streak and will probably not be the pushover we all hope they will be on Sunday.

Liverpool’s final game is home to a relegated Middlesbrough, so the most realistic hope is that West Ham upset the apple cart one more time this weekend.

Aside from all that, Arsenal have a huge problem, though - those point totals and a fairly inferior goal difference mean that they have to take all 12 points in order to capitalize on any potential Liverpool slip-up. Anything less than max points, and Arsenal are destined for Channel 5 on Thursday nights.