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xGunners: Arsenal’s top four race

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Taking a look at the race for the last Champions League spot

Arsenal v Manchester United - FA Cup Fourth Round
It’s not THAT scary Shkodran
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Arsenal’s loss in Manchester, combined with Chelsea and Manchester United winning, really hurt Arsenal’s position on the table. They started the weekend in 4th and ended it in 6th.

The upside: while things don’t look great right now, Arsenal actually have the easiest run of matches to finish the season compared to their rivals.

Arsenal face just five teams in the top half of the table over the last 13 matches of the season, while both Chelsea and Manchester United have seven matches each against top half teams. Those two both also have to play the two teams currently sitting at the top of the table, while Arsenal have already completed their matches against Manchester City and Liverpool.

Looking at this from a more quantitative perspective, Arsenal have an average ELO rating of the teams that they face of 1690.5, Manchester United are at 1715.3 and Chelsea have the hardest remaining schedule with an average ELO rating against of 1735.3 (the lower the better).

What this means is that, while Arsenal are three points back of Chelsea and a point back of United, they also are expected to net the highest total remaining points of the three teams, and that makes the race incredibly tight.

Over the remaining 13 matches, my projection model gives Arsenal an expected points tally of 23 points (22.9 to be exact), compared to 21 (21.3) for Chelsea and 20 (20.3) for United. That would put Arsenal at 70 points, Chelsea at 71 points and United at 68 points.

While those tallies are all within the realm of possibility, realistically, the team that finishes fourth will likely have won more than expected. With Arsenal’s relatively easy schedule it isn’t crazy to think that they might be able to put together another run of better-than-expected point collecting.

Arsenal should really be looking to set the point goal for the rest of the season at a minimum of 2 points per match, or 26 points from the next 39. The biggest test will be to see if they can set themselves up for a strong finish, where they will be fairly heavy favorites over the last seven matches by collecting around 14 points from the run of:

Huddersfield Town away

Home vs Southampton

Home vs Bournemouth

Tottenham Hotspur away

Home vs Manchester United

Wolverhampton Wanderers away

It would be really easy to get down after the performance against Manchester City, but things are still looking reasonably optimistic for Arsenal to meet the goal of Champions League qualification that they set out at the start of the season via the league.