Arsenal face one of their toughest challenges this evening as they welcome Everton to the Emirates.
Arsenal have somehow got themselves up to third in the table when many had started to write Arsene Wenger’s side off over the hunt for a top four place and Champions League football.
Things don’t get much tougher for the Gunners as they are preparing to face up to a side in Everton, that could drag themselves into the scramble for a top four finish if they confine Arsenal to their fourth home defeat of the season.
It’s undoubtedly more important for Arsenal to finish in the top four by the end of the year because of the money that guarantees the club and in terms of the players they can go after in the summer.
The importance of securing Champions League football has never been higher because of the imminent financial controls which are coming into English football.
The Champions League provides clubs with millions in TV broadcasting deals which is classed as income and which could be spent by Arsenal to improve their squad, which would also benefit them in a domestic sense.
Arsenal have looked a million miles off the pace in the Premier League from the two Manchester clubs, which means Wenger is going to have to break with tradition and spend some money this summer to compete for the title next year.
He will find it very difficult to attract the calibre of player who could make that possible if Arsenal are not in the top four, because all of the top players now want to play the highest level of European football.
For Everton, they will need a remarkable run of results over their remaining games to get into the top four ahead of Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea which would present them with a variety of opportunities they would not have been expecting.
If Arsenal unthinkably lose the match then they will remain just a single point ahead of Chelsea, Spurs and Everton but more importantly, they will conceded a games in hand advantage to their main rivals for the top four.
Chelsea will have two games in hand on the Gunners and Spurs will have a single game in hand, which presents both London clubs with the chance to win and drag Arsenal out of the top four, sending them back to square one.
The Gunners can rely on their attack which has produced 42 goals at home this season, two more than Manchester United, which gives them the best home attack in the league.
It almost guarantees that Everton will have to use some park the bus tactics if they are going to take anything away from the match.
Arsenal can also look at Everton’s away record and take some confidence from the fact the Toffees have dropped points in 11 away matches this season and are the lowest scoring away side out of the top seven teams in the Premier League.
Arsenal or Everton this evening?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald