For Arsenal fans, it’s not cheering news, but it’s the reality: the club may not play the European Champions League next season even if they finish the season at the fourth place!
Few fans of the north London club gave it a thought that Arsenal could be among the European elites next season. Some even considered possible relegation as the Gunners suffered three straight defeats and shipped in nine goals without scoring any at the beginning of the season.
By Matchday 11, however, Mikel Arteta’s squad turned the curve pushing from the relegation zone to No 5. Now they are fourth on the log and an added advantage of three games outstanding.
The top leagues in Europe – England, Spain, Italy and Germany – each are entitled to four teams in the UEFA Champions League. But there are exceptions, which is what may affect Arsenal despite ending the season in fourth place for the first time since the 2015/2016 campaign.
Manchester United (at No 5) and West Ham United (No 6) remain in European competitions – the latter in the Champions League and West Ham in the UEFA Europa League, both in the Round of 16. And due to a change in UEFA regulations back in 2013, no more than five teams from the same league can be registered in the Champions League, the continent’s elite competition.
This has created a potential nightmare for Arsenal. If Manchester United win the Champions League and West Ham lift the Europa League – and neither finish in the top four – then only the top three in the Premier League would qualify for the Champions League.
This scenario could become a reality, especially as the Red Devils dropped out of the top four on Sunday and the Hammers slipped to sixth after losing to Liverpool.
‘To be fair, I don’t like to look at the table a lot because we have games in hand, we’re going to play different fixtures and I know the objective and it’s only one, to try and improve tomorrow on what we’ve done today and go into the next match and that’s it’, Arsenal manager Arteta said following the victory over Wolves that sent his side to the crucial fourth place in the EPL.
At the moment, Arsenal fans are not bothered about the calculations. They are rather excited that their much loved club are finally back among the EPL elite after six seasons outside that rank.