Arsenal Chasing Champions League Football Under Mikel Arteta

Photo Credit: AP

Arsenal are looking to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17. Following their Wednesday night win over Chelsea, the Gunners are level on points with Tottenham for fourth place.

They were in the box seat for the final Champions League berth not so long ago, but Arsenal results have dropped off over the last month.

Losing to Liverpool was expected. Being outplayed by Crystal Palace and taking no points from matchups with Brighton and Southampton was harder to explain away from Mikel Arteta.

The underlying numbers suggest the Gunners were grossly unlucky to lose all those matches, and they are just behind Manchester United and Tottenham by Understat’s expected points since the turn of year despite playing two fewer games.

Arteta has been on the end of some criticism for his comments after the loss to Southampton.

The Spaniard said, “For somebody that doesn’t know the result and is watching the game, you know what they would tell you: that Arsenal won the game.

“And we didn’t. It’s very disappointing and difficult to explain with words. But this is sport. It’s what makes it different to any other because (for example) in basketball you have 25 shots and the opponent has one then you win 10 out of 10 times.

“The result is that at the end we need to be where we have to be. And if we are not able to do that, we are not going to be there (in the top four). It’s as simple as that. To win football matches, you have to score more goals than what we are doing at the moment.”

Arsenal bounced back from that disappointment with a scintillating win at Chelsea. Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka were particularly brilliant as the Gunners scored four, making up for their recent woes in front of goal.

Arsenal FC

It could be viewed as vindication for Arteta, who has been difficult to evaluate as a manager in his career to date. It’s fair to say the Spaniard’s tune had changed following the win at Stamford Bridge.

“That’s the game that we had in hand. I said to them if you want to play Champions League football you have to come to places like this and win.

“Tonight we’ve done it and I’m really proud of them tonight, but I’m more proud of how they’ve reacted to every defeat over the past few weeks. Not only the players but as a staff and a club, and that’s what reinforces me and gives me a reminder of how lucky I am to be here.

“What I love is the spirit of these players. When you lose matches, you get punished, you get criticised but for these players I don’t care because it’s so worth it.

“They are phenomenal people and as a group they are really growing. To win a London derby away from home and how we did it, I am really happy.”

Of course, this is just one of many Arsenal results that will determine their fate. Its timing, however, was perfect. Tottenham had lost to Brighton. Manchester United were humiliated by Liverpool just 24 hours prior.

It wasn’t quite must-win for Arteta and co, but it was in that realm. It’s Manchester United up next, while Tottenham face Brentford and Leicester before taking on Liverpool.

Antonio Conte’s team still have an advantage on goal difference. Yet, none of these teams can be trusted to perform consistently. When one looks to be taking control of the situation, they slip up. Arsenal’s season could have turned on that win against Chelsea.

Manchester United are a shambles. The Gunners should win at the weekend, but it would be no surprise to see them drop further points.

Arteta Arsenal

West Ham away is a challenging fixture – David Moyes’ team are unbeaten at home in their last eight, though their attention could be elsewhere with the match coming in the middle of their Europa League tie with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Leeds have improved under Jesse Marsch. They are a banana skin. This is a team with little to play for down the stretch, however. Then comes the North London Derby which could be what decides this top four race.

Whoever holds the upper hand going into that match can play a more reserved game, and look to attack on the break, which suits both clubs.

The penultimate match of the season is away to a Newcastle side who have lost just three times in 15 home matches.

Eddie Howe has turned their campaign around, and a once toxic atmosphere is overwhelmingly positive. The Magpies, like Leeds, don’t have anything to play for, though.

If it goes to the final day as looks likely, Tottenham will fancy their chances. Everton, Arsenal’s opponents, might be fighting for their Premier League lives. Norwich will likely be long gone, and could get blown away by Harry Kane and Heung-min Son.

Both Arsenal and Tottenham are unpredictable. There’s almost no pattern to their brilliant performances and their woeful afternoons/evenings.

Tottenham conceded a lead over the last few days, but Conte’s team still look like the favourites to qualify for next season’s Champions League. The expected numbers tab Spurs as the fourth-best team in the league by a margin that shouldn’t be glossed over.

It’s not out of reach for Arsenal, but they cannot afford poor finishing to cost them dearly again.

Arsenal Results

  • 16th March – Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
  • 19th March – Aston Villa 0-1 Arsenal
  • 4th April – Crystal Palace 3-0 Arsenal
  • 9th April – Arsenal 1-2 Brighton
  • 16th April – Southampton 1-0 Arsenal
  • 20th April – Chelsea 2-4 Arsenal

Remaining Fixtures

  • 23rd April – Manchester United (H)
  • 1st May – West Ham (A)
  • 8th May – Leeds (H)
  • 12th May – Tottenham (A)
  • 16th May – Newcastle (A)
  • 22nd May – Everton (H)