For nearly two decades Arsenal have finished in the top four of the Premier League table, but that status is once again under-threat.
In fact for a couple of seasons now the Gunners place as a top-four side has come under threat.
The Gunners face a vital home game with West Ham tonight in a clash that Arsene Wenger’s side cannot afford to slip-up in. The Gunners are odds of 2/5 to defeat the Hammers.
Arsenal will kick-off the game in fifth place two points behind Everton, who have won seven straight top-flight games.
A win would move the side from north London back above the Merseysider’s, if only for 24 hours as the Toffees host Crystal Palace at Goodison on Wednesday night.
Few people would have predicted this scenario in February when Arsenal were top of the Premier league table and looking like real contenders for title. However, in the last few months Arsenal’s league campaign has spluttered.
Just like last season, the Gunners are involved in a battle for fourth-place. However, it is a completely different situation. Wenger’s side finished last season with a superb run of form, whereas this season they are rather limping to the end of the season.
Everton have the momentum going into the last five games of the season, but they also have the more difficult fixtures of the two teams. The Toffees have home games against Palace, Manchester United and Manchester City, while Roberto Martinez’s side also face trips to Southampton and Hull.
None of those games are likely to be easy and you would definitely choose Arsenal fixtures over the Toffees. Everton’s home record has been outstanding of late with eight consecutive wins at Goodison Park in all competitions though.
Neither Manchester United nor Manchester city will be looking forward to their trip to face Martinez’s men, so the Toffees cannot be written-off in the race for fourth.
I do actually think that Arsenal may just have enough to clinch fourth spot, but if they do not then it is likely to signal big changes at the club, including Arsene Wenger considering his future, with the veteran French boss out of contract in the summer.
Arsenal may be on the verge of winning their first silverware in nine years, but there is a sense that the Gunners have stagnated in the second half of the season, after making such a promising start to the campaign.
It seems that big defeats at Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton have turned opinion against Wenger and that the love affair with the veteran French boss over. Maybe it is time for the biggest change of the summer, in the Arsenal dugout.
Failing to qualify for the Champions League this season would be regarded as failure for Wenger, who seems to have regarded finishing fourth in the Premier League as a major success for the Gunners in recent years.
Arsenal fans were previously accustomed to challenging for the league title, but in the last decade fourth spot seems to have become the team’s only aim. This season offered hope of a title challenge, which has badly faded away.
Arsenal are one of the most financially stable clubs in the Premier League, largely thanks to Wenger not being able to locate the clubs wallet in recent transfer windows. The club record signing of German playmaker Mesut Ozil was a massive surprise, because Wenger seems to hate to spend money.
Missing out on the Champions League and the revenue it brings may have less of an impact on the Gunners than it would other teams, because the clubs finances are in such good shape.
There is no doubt that the Arsenal team needs improving in a couple of areas. It is unknown whether a lack of Champions League football would have a major effect on the quality of players that would join the club in the summer.
Arsenal are still a big enough name to attract big players, but if Wenger carries on with his policy of only signing players that are value for money, the Gunners will not be in for the top echelon players anyway.
Arsenal are not a club that should be aiming for fourth place every season, they are a club that should be aiming for the league title every season. Maybe if the Gunners missed out on a top-four finish this season it would be the shock to the system that the Arsenal hierarchy needs.
Arsenal had the perfect chance this season to stake a claim for the Premier League title, but a combination of injuries and more importantly Arsene Wenger’s stubbornness has cost the Gunners that chance.
If attitudes do not change at the Emirates this summer, then next season will be just another season attempting to finish in the top-four and any progress made this season will have gone to waste.
Would missing out on the Champions League really be a disaster for Arsenal?
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