The race to the finish line at the end of another action-packed, unpredictable Premier League campaign is officially on.
For most clubs, including Arsenal, just three more matches stand between themselves and the chequered flag coming into view.
With the Premier League title all but sealed by Manchester City and the three relegation places wrapped up, with Fulham last night joining Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion in dropping down into the Championship, all that is left to be settled is the race for UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football for next season.
At the time of writing, with just a handful of games left to play, just 11 points separate Leicester City in fourth and Arsenal in ninth, with there currently being a gap of just six points between the Gunners and fifth-placed West Ham United.
With that said, there could be a lot of change in league positions over the next few matchdays.
For Arsenal, they have to, in an ideal world, win all of their remaining matches and hope others falter to stand any chance of securing fifth or sixth place to secure a Europa League berth. However, if Chelsea or Leicester fail to finish in the top-four, the winner of their FA Cup final clash would go into the Europa League, meaning the team that finishes fifth would join them.
For instance, if Leicester won the FA Cup final but slipped out of the top-four and didn’t finish fifth, they would secure themselves a Europa League spot, leaving the side that finishes sixth, should it not be Leicester, to go into the Europa Conference League, which is a new competition being brought in next term.
With that in mind, football.london has run the rule over Arsenal’s remaining fixtures and those of their direct rivals.
May 12: Chelsea (A)
May 19: Crystal Palace (A)
May 23: Brighton & Hove Albion (H)
With the Gunners facing an uphill struggle to claim one of the two Europa League spots up for grabs, Mikel Arteta’s side will have to throw hell to the wind in their final three games if they are to stand any chance of securing fifth or sixth spot. As well as that, they would have to hope that those around them slipped up. A place in the Europa League conference League may be more likely, but even that could be a tall order.
West Ham’s fixtures:
May 15: Brighton & Hove Albion (A)
May 19: West Bromwich Albion A)
May 23: Southampton (H)
On paper, West Ham’s three remaining fixtures appear favourable, meaning they will still be looking above forwards rather than over their shoulder. Given that Leicester must face Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in their remaining fixtures, the Hammers will be looking to capitalise on any slip ups and sneak into the top-four to secure Champions League football for next season.
May 13: Manchester United (A)
May 16: West Bromwich Albion (A)
May 19: Burnley (A)
May 23: Crystal Palace (H)
Unlike Arsenal and West Ham, Liverpool have four games left to play, starting with Thursday evening’s rearranged clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford. That is the first of three successive away games for Jurgen Klopp’s side, but the trips to West Brom and Burnley present great opportunities for maximum points. Given they have a game in hand and Leicester’s tricky-looking run-in, Liverpool could sneak into the top-four.
May 16: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
May 19: Aston Villa (H)
May 23: Leicester City (A)
Like Arsenal, Spurs just have three Premier League games left to play before their season reaches its conclusion, with no other fixtures in any other competitions to feature in. At the time of writing, Spurs are four points and two places better off than the Gunners in the Europa League race, meaning if they can win two of their last three games it should be enough to sneak into the Europa League proper.
May 13: Aston Villa (A)
May 16: Sheffield United (H)
May 19: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
May 23: Manchester City (A)
Like Liverpool, Everton have four games remaining, two of which are away from home, including a final day trip to Manchester City. Currently three points better off than Arsenal, the Toffees do have the edge, but their fixture list, despite facing already-relegated Sheffield United, does not seem overly straightforward. Everton’s final few games could be the toughest to predict.
Given that the introduction of the Europa Conference League next season makes this race for the Europa League slightly more confusing, the overall outset is fairly clear in Arsenal’s case.
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The Gunners, ideally, need to win all three of their remaining matches and hope others slip up to stand any chance of getting into the Europa League proper. Considering Arteta’s side must face Chelsea in those final three matches, you would be forgiven for thinking that they will not take nine points from the remaining nine on offer, although you can never say never in the Premier League.
Leicester’s difficult run-in could have a huge say in the shape up of all of this, as any slip ups from them could open the door for West Ham or Liverpool to get into the top-four. Chelsea are not mathematically assured of a top-four finish themselves just yet but it is highly unlikely they will drop out given their current form.
In all truth, unless Spurs and Everton falter, Arsenal may even fall short in looking to gain seventh spot and a place in the Europa Conference League.