After Roberto Martinez’s Everton side won their 6th game in a row against Arsenal yesterday, the blue side of Merseyside were rightly dreaming last night about Champions League football next season. But with 6 games to go (5 in Arsenal’s case), will this be Everton’s year? Or will Arsenal once again get away with it and earn the right to play against Europe’s elite next season?
The most important factor for the last 2 months of a season are the run-ins. Arsenal have only 1 game against a team in the top half of the table and that it is against a Newcastle side that seem to already be on their Summer holidays. This season despite the Gunners’ inconsistencies, the reaction after a damaging defeat such as yesterday’s loss has generally been a good one apart from their recent 6-0 thrashing at Chelsea. After a loss against Manchester United in November, Arsenal went unbeaten until they were heavily defeated by Manchester City. Following the 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium, the Londoners went 8 games unbeaten before being battered once again by a top 4 team, this time a 6-0 defeat at Anfield. Granted, since that disastrous afternoon against Liverpool, Arsenal have never quite been the team they were earlier in the season but my point still stands, Wenger despite his weaknesses normally gets his team to bounce back quickly. This is along with the fact that Arsenal have a trend in which they seem to end seasons strongly, somehow stealing 4th place from fierce rivals such as Tottenham.
Now, the main reason for why I feel that Arsenal will get 4th place is because of the differentiation in run-ins. Everton have a much harder looking last 6 games where they have to face both Manchester clubs at Goodison Park, you would think that Arsenal are more likely to win all of their games than Everton. They also have to face Sunderland next week, who will be fighting for their lives to secure Premier League survival.
Another factor that you have to take into account is that despite Arsenal’s relatively young team, many of them have been in this sort of position before. They are experienced in getting vital results near the end of a season to secure Champions League qualification.
This all together is why I am backing Wenger’s side to once again qualify for the Champions League. If the Evertonians were 4-5 points ahead of the Gunners at this stage, I would back them. The sheer power of Romelu Lukaku, skill of Steven Naismith and the solid Gareth Barry have all proved to have been superb additions to a club that always seems to come up short of Champions League qualification. Roberto Martinez has done a fantastic job, Everton have made a somewhat seamless transition from the departure of long term manager, David Moyes. But Arsenal’s good form at times during the season will be able to make sure they just pull through. Of course, the men high up at the Emirates Stadium want silverware instead of European qualification every year, but they will have to settle once again for that. The FA Cup is still a strong possibility for Arsenal to end their 9 year long wait for a major trophy.