Is a Top Four Finish Still Realistic?
Watching Champions League and Europa League matches this week was a stark reminder of how things had really gone awry for us at Arsenal football club. Remember when there was a time it was about the title challenges between Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, with Arsenal alternating between first and second place, before the emergence of Chelsea thanks to the petro-millions of Roman Abramovich and a talented gaffer like Jose Mourinho. A consistent top two challenge, saw Arsenal drop to what we expected as the barest minimums in top four finish, with the manager famously stating that top four place is a trophy, leading to all sorts of mockery and vitriol from fans.
Fast forward to the last couple of seasons, and it turned for the worst. Following four consecutive campaigns in the Europa League, Arsenal went one better last season, missing out of Europe entirely. As unfortunate as it was, the fans had to adjust expectations and hope that the team will push for a stronger finish this season alongside a strong showing in the domestic cups. The double-legged header with Liverpool was always going to end in the same outcome, but the early exit from the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest was downright embarrassing.
With no ‘cup distractions’ left, one was to assume that Arsenal was going to go all out in the Premier League, putting up the performances expected of them, but the results in January did not match the consistent showing that the lads put in the previous month. Following the valiant yet unfortunate loss at Old Trafford at the end of November, the Gunners began December with a poor showing at Everton (can’t get over that Eddie Nketiah’s late miss) before positive results against Southampton, high flying West Ham, Leeds and Norwich. We can all attest to the fact that the loss to Manchester City was hard to take but the draw with Burnley left a lot to be desired. The Gunners last outing on the pitch saw the lads smash and grab a win at Molineux, with Michael Oliver brandishing one of the most bizarre red cards you’d ever see.
Arsenal’s next five fixtures would see the Gunners take on Brentford (H), Wolves (H), Watford (A), Leicester (H) and Aston Villa (A). Realistically, we would expect at least 12 points from a possible 15, and we have to only hope our fellow Top Four rivals, Man Utd, West Ham, Wolves and Spurs keep faltering. There is a lot of football to be played between now and May, and we can only hope for consistency, and most importantly, no injuries, as the club can ill-afford any downtime to the playing personnel.