31 March 2014

Race for 4th; Six matches, 18 points...is 3rd still possible?

Well, with no help from Fulham or Tottenham, we made about as much from the weekend as anyone could have expected. With six matches left to play, we sit in fourth place, albeit a bit precariously. While we control our fourth-place fate, a dropped point is all it takes to let Everton get level on points with us, sending to goal-differentials to decide who goes where next year. We're currently at +19; they're at +16. Let's take a quick look at how to avoid this potentially messy situation and to clinch fourth place outright—with an eye to nicking third. Our magic number for 4th place: 18 points.

Any combination of points we gain and points Everton drop that adds up to 18 gives us fourth place. Simple as that. Before the weekend, it was 19, and our draw with Man City shaved off one point. If we go into Goodison Park on Sunday and manage a draw, the magic number drops to 15 (we earn a point while Everton drops two, 1+2=3). If we win, well, there's six points right there and we're looking at 12 points to go. With five matches still to play, we could afford just one draw while still controlling our destiny. In fact, while we're at it, there's a ghost of a chance that we could climb to third place, but this is a tetchy proposition that depends on us claiming all 18 points still on offer while Chelsea drops at least six. It's hard to see both variables coming through, even if our run-in is a bit softer than theirs. We do have the FA Cup to pursue, and even if Chelsea's continued foray into the Champions League distracts them, they really only have a trip to Anfield to sweat over. Still, as their own loss to Crystal Palace shows, anything can happen, which is both an invitation—and a warning.

4th place
Of course, Sunday's clash is our most-difficult remaining fixture: away to a rival vying to overtake us, Everton are about as in-form as any other club in the Prem, even more so at home, where they haven't lost since late December. If we draw on Sunday, Everton may be resigned to fifth place, what with visits from Man U and Man City bookending a trip to face Southampton. They'd have to take all of the points from their remaining matches, including a win over us, to get to 81 points. A draw on Sunday would permit us to still climb as high as 80 points if we win our remaining five matches, but Everton would then only be able to get to 79 if they win their remaining six fixtures. For Everton, then, winning on Sunday is paramount to their hopes. A draw leaves their fate in our hands; they would have to hope that we drop points elsewhere while they keep every single point available. This is not to say we have it sewn up by any means.We cannot afford to underestimate anyone at this point. For those brimming with confidence, for example, West Brom have held us to two draws already this season, and they'll likely be in the heat of a relegation battle when we play. Scoff if you will, but the Prem match that we drew marked the first dropped points for us since Aston Villa on opening day.

Of course, fourth place means we'll appear in the Champions League qualifiers again, stretching Arsène's impressive streak to 17 but adding a two-match playoff to our list. While we despatched Fener handily enough (5-0 aggregate), there's nothing wrong with keeping an eye on third place. It lies out of our reach at the moment, but outright qualification would not only remove that two-match playoff from our fixtures, it would also clarify our status somewhat in the summer transfer-window. In years past, we've been told that it's harder to sign top-notch players when our Champions League status still hangs in the balance. Let's take a look, then, at what it might take for us to get there.

3rd place
After 32 matches, we have 64, Chelsea have 69, and Liverpool have 71. After 30, Man City have 67. If only to keep things simple, Chelsea looks to be the club we're likeliest to reel in (if anything of the sort is possible at all). Now, if they go on and win their remaining six, they'll climb to 87, well beyond our reach. However, if they can drop six points and finish at 81, there's hope yet. We'll have to win all of our remaining matches to get to 82 points. I won't get into the how's and why's that would lead to us level on points as it's too remote and too complex for my feeble mind. Even if I could, it would amount to little if not nothing because Chelsea's goal-differential is +38. Ours is +19. I won't go into how a certain 6-0 loss contributed to those stats. Water under the bridge. Sorry. Wrong idiom? I digress. There's something to play for, still. Chelsea did, after all, lose to Crystal Palace. They have PSG to wrestle with, along with the possibility of future Champions League play to ponder as well. Sadly, alone among their remaining fixtures, only their trip to Anfield looks to pose any difficulties as Liverpool will likely still be contending with Man City for the title at that point. Even if we make allowances for the idea that four of the teams that Chelsea will face—Sunderland, Swansea, Norwich, and Cardiff—may still be fighting to stave off relegation, it's a hard case to make. However, during their 2012 journey to the Champions League final, they slumped to sixth in the Prem. This was more of a season-long malaise and not so much as a final-weeks collapse, though.

Still, while realizing that third place is not simply there for the taking, I don't think I'm raving like a lunatic when I suggest it's still on the table. We'd need help. Sunderland fought them to a tough 3-4 Prem loss and went on to dump them from the league cup. Stoke beat them 3-2 in the Prem before losing 0-1 in the FA Cup. Liverpool lost 1-2. There's precedent, if not proof. Qualifying for third—leap-frogging Mourinho in the process—would be doubly delicious. Humiliations galore for him. Enough schadenfreude to last through the summer. A glorious end to a season that has been inspiring at times, dispiriting at others. Signing a few players would get that much simpler, and we could look ahead to the 2014-15 season with even a bit more optimism and faith.

I'm not turning up my nose at fourth place by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just not yet ready to place the order.


  1. sorry gooner but part1 of your plan falls apart on sunday wehn we show you that the 1-4 was us being nice to you so you can go further in the fa cup.

    1. don't Evertonians have sites of their own to read? we shouldn't have trouble holding on to 4th even if that's a disapointment to some fans, with the injuries we've had it's too bad we couldn't finish higher. where would liverpool be without suarez? City without Toure? Chelsea without Hazard? That's just one player per team. we've gone without Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere, and Ozil and still, we're right in the thick of it. I'd love to see us finish above Chelsea but that might be a bridge too far!

    2. Its lucky some Evertonians do read this site as it doesn't seem to be used by many Gooners. We look forward to welcoming you to Goodison on Sunday when you will be able to say goodbye to 4th place.

  2. If we beat Everton this weekend, 4th is almost guaranteed.

  3. Ahahahahahahaha arsenal have had no injury's Ramsey yeah an Walcott but it ozil missed one game , who as we know you spent a lot of reddies for so he can't take walcott s place? =s , you have santi and ox and podolski then for Ramsey you have arteta, Wilshire ( who's not improved since he was 17 & stupidly highly over rated as hes a joke really) flamini so injury wise you have been lucky! Look at ur opponents on Sunday now that's a team who can moan about injury's , Gibson, kone, Barkley, Oviedo, jags, hibbert, pienarr, toure, so arsenal fans instead of moaning every season about this and that for once hold your hands up and realise use are shit and have no chance of winning the league after Xmas every year its funny how your hopes go up each season after a good start then by march u look for champs league as best hahaahahahahah jokes

    1. Yeah, looks like Thursday nights in the Europa's next year. Well they have wasted a Champions league place for the last eighteen years and its about time they gave it to a team that might win it. COYB

  4. You couldn't give Ozil away in a lucky bag for 10p he's white. But next season with Walcott back we will definitely make top four (I hope.) I think it will do us good to miss the Champion League for one season. I also think with the football Martinez has got Everton playing they will do really well in Europe. On a side note think the above post is out of order.

    UP THE GUNNERS!!!!!!!


  5. Oops should say he is shite not white in above comments.

  6. My word. Have you people heard yourselves? Anonymous at 9:15 am. First of all, your grammar, spelling and overall grasp of the English language is pathetic. Are you actually English? In future I'd think long and hard before coming to an Arsenal blog and making idiotic and churlish comments with such awful awful English skills.

    Your comments quite clearly show that you support one of Everton, Spurs, or any one of the other top half teams who have floundered in Arsenal's shadow for the last half century. You are hurting, I get that. You waited till Arsenal were down - like a coward, and came running to get your kicks in while they're down. Clearly reflects the type of person you are.

    Arsenal, win, draw or lose against Everton, will finish fourth - at least.

    Everton, Spurs and the rest of the upcomers, whilst good teams, just aren't ready yet. They'll get there though at the expense of one of the current top four. Who knows? It could be Arsenal they usurp.

    Anonymous at 10:14. Sorry, but whilst we all have a right to an opinion, yours on Ozil is short sighted and blighted by the resentment borne of the fact that he wasn't our savior this year. Logic my friend, dictates that no matter the player, a maiden season in the infinitely more physical and stamina sapping Premier League, a first season - for any player, will be short of their best.

    Man up and have a little patience please because with our current set of players plus a striker and perhaps another defender next year, we have every chance of winning the league.

    I really wish people would use a little more objectivity when making comments...

    Here's to a fourth and possibly third placed finish this year!

  7. These Toffees are talking a lot of smack for a team that hasn't won a trophy in 19 years.

  8. These Toffees are talking a lot of smack for a team that hasn't won a trophy in 19 years.

  9. For the nonsense and bad grammar, bad spelling and bad attitudes, as an Arsenal fan, what disturbs me most is that, with five matches to go we are no better than last year and still sweating out the possibility of missing the CL.

    To me that is utterly disgraceful and not something that can be blamed on unfortunate injuries. Every team from the PL down to the lowest country league side suffers injuries. The richer teams plan and can spend for that possibility, the poorer sides cannot afford replacements of equal value and ability but still recognize that risk. Arsenal seems to be led by someone who smiles and tells the faihful not to worry, he has it all under control.

    Unfortunately, had we beaten the weaker teams, regardless of those debacles versus Chelsea, MU, City, etc, none of this would matter. In December we were on top although some already were looking ahead at the schedule and the risk of defeats against the better sides. Injuries help push matters into the danger zone, but maybe we are right where we deserve to be.

    Jon, you among others (go back and look) were convinced that Liverpool would fade given the lack of depth on the squad and a possible implosion by "he who bits ears". That never happened. The other two sides are where we expected although Jose may have reached heights not expected either. Thankfully, for AW's sake, MU fell faster than anyone though with or without Moyes, leaving Arsenal in the top 4, for the moment.

    Basically, now the team and their manager have to cinch up their belts and fight for a full 90 minutes plus added time every weak, no matter the injuries, the aches, the petulance or anger or whatever.

    1. Well, for one, we are a bit better, both for points and position, than we were last year, but not as much as we'd like, especially with Man U's collapse. However, whereas last year was a scramble for 4th that didn't end until there were 48 minutes left in our season, we spent most of the year in 1st until we started to fade. We still have a strong hold on 4th, a marginal improvement on last year, with an outside, faint chance of 3rd. Considering our injuries and spending, that's pretty damned good. Maybe not as good as it should be, but I'd hesitate to call it disgraceful.

      Our squad has lost far and away the most player-games (239) than any other. Man U is next with 168. Chelsea's lost 90 and Man City 122. Part of this is depth, of course, but being bankrolled brings that. I wouldn't call it "planning for" injuries so much as "stockpiling", but maybe I'm just being churlish.

      Speaking of, maybe it's time I apologize to Liverpool for my bold, repeated proclamations that they'd fade. They haven't. Suarez hasn't self-destructed. It appears I've been off the mark. For what it's worth, I'm now "rooting" for them to win the Prem if only to deny it to City or Chelsea. If, however, Suarez reverts and is banned, all bets are off.

      I know full-well I've been guilty of some misty-eyed optimism, and maybe I'm too ready to squeal about injuries and oil-money as obstacles, but the season has been far better than I anticipated. For us to fade as we've done in the last month has been dispiriting, but I would maintain that we're right where we should be, balancing hopes and realities.


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