Steve Bould believes the demands of European football on Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea could give Arsenal an edge in the fight for a top four Premier League finish and qualification for next season's Champions League.
Arsenal can focus on their final eight league fixtures, beginning at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, having been eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich, while Chelsea face the continued mental and physical strains of the Europa League. Tottenham travel to Basel next Thursday for the quarter-final return, with the score level at 2-2 from the first leg, while Chelsea take a 3-1 lead to Moscow where they will play Rubin Kazan.
"Being in Europe can be a factor," Bould, the Arsenal assistant manager, said. "It's extremely tough, the travel. It can affect and I think sometimes, if a negative result comes along within that time span, it can affect your season. It's going to be tough."
Chelsea's calendar is complicated further by their involvement in the FA Cup; they face Manchester City in the semi-final on Sunday week, with one consequence of the tie being that their league game at Stamford Bridge against Tottenham has had to be postponed. The Premier League has, as yet, not found a new date, although Wednesday 8 May is a possibility.
Tottenham and Chelsea entertain Everton and Sunderland respectively on Sunday, and there is precious little wriggle room in the table. Tottenham, in third, are two points clear of Chelsea who, in turn, are two ahead of Arsenal.
Bould's message was that Arsenal had to put themselves first and concentrate on winning as many of their remaining games as possible. They will travel to the Hawthorns with their confidence pepped, despite the continued injury absences of Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, as, since the derby defeat at Tottenham on 3 March, they have beaten Bayern, Swansea City and Reading. The 2-0 win at Bayern, while not enough to secure Champions League progress on aggregate, was a performance of tremendous spirit and it has the capacity to prove a turning point.
"All along, we've known it's how we do over the next few months," Bould said. "We're capable and we've got a good run going. We just need to win games and put pressure on and hope that one of them will wilt. We're aiming for as high as we can get.
"West Brom is a really tough game and Steve Clarke has done a magnificent job there. They've had a little dip but they've been more or less up there for the whole season. They've got a good back four, a good goalkeeper and they don't let in an awful amount of goals. We're under no illusions. We know it's going to be tough but we're more than capable."
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