Arsenal’s win over West Ham was an important milestone for the club this season. It qualified them for next season’s Europa League, at the very least. The Gunners can finish the season no worse than 6th place, which will get them the FA Cup Winner spot in the Europa League because both teams in the final, Liverpool and Chelsea, have already qualified for European competition next season.
Arsenal can guarantee no worse than a 5th place finish with two points. And one point is almost certainly good enough because Manchester United would have to win out and make up 11 goals in goal difference to finish tied with the Gunners on 64 points.
Arsenal have their sights set on a 4th place finish and a return to the Champions League. The task is straightforward - win out, qualify for the CL. Or win three and draw Spurs, qualify for the Champions League. Arsenal are two points ahead of Tottenham with the same number of remaining games and a North London Derby on May 12th. The Gunners need to match Spurs’ results and not lose the NLD, essentially. Easier said than done. And yes, I know who Tottenham still have to play. I’m focused on what Arsenal can control, and I’d wager that’s how Mikel Arteta is looking at it too.
Remaining Premier League schedules:
Chelsea (66 points)
vs. Wolves, May 7th
@ Leeds United, May 11th
vs. Leicester City, May 19th
vs. Watford, May 22nd
Arsenal (63 points)
vs. Leeds United, May 8th
@ Tottenham, May 12th
@ Newcastle, May 16th
vs. Everton, May 22nd
Tottenham (61 points)
@ Liverpool, May 7th
vs. Arsenal, May 12th
vs. Burnley, May 15th
@ Norwich City, May 22nd
Manchester United (55 points)
vs. Brentford, May 2nd
@ Brighton, May 7th
@ Crystal Palace, May 22nd
Tottenham have a significantly better goal difference (7) than Arsenal, so unless the final four matches somehow erase that, if the two sides finish tied on points, Spurs finish higher. If, however, Tottenham and Arsenal finish tied on points AND tied on goal difference, 4th place would be determined by a one-match playoff, likely at a neutral ground. Chelsea’s goal difference makes their three-point lead over Arsenal a four-point lead in practice.
I’m not going to get into breaking down who Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, and United have remaining on their schedules. You could look at the remaining matches and give multiple reasons why each team will or will not be motivated to put in a good performance, regardless of whether they appear to have something to play for or not. They’re all football clubs with professional players. They play to get results.
Arsenal still have plenty to play for this season. A fourth place finish would be incredibly valuable for the Gunners and fantastic for us as supporters.
But I’d like to take pause a minute to enjoy Arsenal getting back into Europe. That was the goal (for many supporters and I’d wager for the club) going into the season. They’ve managed it with matches to spare and while fielding the youngest average starting lineup in the Premier League. They are eight points better this season over the corresponding matches from last year and have already bettered the points haul.
There is plenty of room for improvement, too. There are a handful of matches this season that you’d like Arsenal to find a result in next year. A few poor performances / results that, with another year of development and another transfer window, you’d expect to erase. Presumably, the young players Arsenal have will continue to develop, add new elements to their play, and iron out some of the weakness. Mikel Arteta and Edu will likely address some (all, he said hopefully) of the clear holes in the roster.
All of that is exciting! This team is nowhere near their ceiling. I expect them to push towards it next year. It’s already been a fantastic season for the club. Relish it! And the lads have a chance to make it even better and give us more to celebrate with the remaining four matches. The next three weeks will be exciting, breathless, and fun. Let’s go.