As Tottenham ran out 2-1 winners against their North London rivals on Sunday it left Arsene Wenger facing the inevitable truth about their Champions League aspirations; both in Europe and domestically the chances of qualifying for next season are extremely bleak.
‘’We have to fight and it [finishing fourth] will be difficult now, because we dropped points that we couldn't afford to drop. But we will fight and we will keep our spirit."
Indeed defeat left them seven points behind Spurs and five behind Chelsea in fourth with just ten games left but rather than looking up they should also be cautiously checking their rear view mirror as there is a Merseyside convoy approaching very fast.
While finishing fifth would be a mini disaster for Arsenal finishing sixth would be the worst case scenario. That would leave them out of European competition completely for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
Currently Arsenal do hold all the cards but with Everton just two points behind The Toffees present the main threat to The Gunners challenge. A quick look at the fixtures immediately points out the game between the two at The Emirates on the 16th April as a massive tie. Arsenal also face tough away days at Swansea, Newcastle and West rom as well as taking on Manchester United at the end of April.
The main positive Arsenal can take would be by looking at Everton’s fixture list. Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and a Merseyside derby are all still to come so holding them off should not be too difficult leaving at least the consolation of Europa League football next season on the horizon regardless of what happens in the final ten games of the season.
But continuing with the motorway analogy; while Everton have plodded along in the middle lane occasionally overtaking a slowing Arsenal motor nobody has spotted the bright red sports car flying down the fast lane after finally coming to terms with the controls of this new machine. Liverpool have produced two scintillating performances in their last pair of Premier League matches scoring nine goals and conceding none.
Their fixture list is also not as favourable as Arsenal’s but if they continue their current form for the rest of the campaign there is little to suggest they could not gobble up the distance necessary to overtake Arsenal leaving them eating dust in the middle lane.
However it might be that the fixtures are in The Gunners favour. If Liverpool and Everton can beat Tottenham during the final ten games of the season who knows? Fourth place might not be so out of reach.
Do you think Arsenal have the easiest run-in at the end of the season?
image: © wonker