Arsenal and Manchester United in danger of missing out on top-four Premier League finishes
By Adam Smith
Arsene Wenger has delivered a top-four finish in each of his 20 seasons at Arsenal – but that run could be about to end, according to a Sky Sports study.
Liverpool replaced Arsenal in the Champions League qualifying spots after defeating the Gunners 3-1 on Saturday.
While Arsenal have a game in hand and will be confident of overhauling the two-point deficit, the north London side’s final 12 fixtures are a cause for concern.
Arsenal have one of the tougher run-ins out of the current top six clubs, in terms of the average league position of teams left to face.
Average league position of upcoming Premier League opponents
|Club||Avg. opponent league position|
The Gunners’ remaining opponents are ranked 10.55 in the Premier League on average and include challengers Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United.
In contrast, Tottenham’s opposition have an average position of 12.55, while Liverpool also have a more favourable fixture list.
Arsenal have only taken 22 points from a possible 36 in previous league encounters with upcoming opponents West Brom, Leicester, Manchester City, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Tottenham, Manchester United, Stoke, Everton and Southampton.
PREDICTED TABLE AND FORM
If the top six teams all repeated their results from earlier this season in their run-ins, Arsenal would finish in sixth and Manchester United would also miss out on the top four, in fifth.
Recent form suggests both teams will have a tough task on their hands to avoid that prediction becoming a reality.
Arsenal have lost three of their last four league games, while four draws in six have stalled United’s progress. In contrast, the rest of the leading sides are either improving or maintaining their levels.
Manchester City have won four in a row, Tottenham have bounced back from an Anfield defeat with big wins, Liverpool have won twice in three games for the first time in 2017, while Chelsea continue to march towards a likely title win.
Man City vs Stoke
March 8, 2017, 7:30pm
Other key factors at this stage of the season are fatigue and the number of games teams have left to play.
Manchester United could play 22 more games if their Premier League fixtures are supplemented by FA Cup and Europa League runs – they’ve already played a league-high 44 games this term.
Manchester City’s Champions League and FA Cup ambitions could see them play 21 more times, like Arsenal (should they reverse their huge first-leg deficit against Bayern Munich), while Tottenham and Chelsea only have their league and FA Cup commitments to focus on.
In contrast, Liverpool only have their 11 remaining Premier League contests to focus on.
Liverpool vs Burnley
March 12, 2017, 3:30pm
Workloads will test strength in depth, but Arsenal are already without first-team regulars Mesut Ozil (illness), Mohamed Elneny (ankle) and Santi Cazorla (ankle).
|Team||Total current injuries||First-team regulars|
Manchester City also have three regulars sidelined in Vincent Kompany (muscle), Gabriel Jesus (metatarsal) and Ilkay Gundogan (ACL).
Liverpool are nursing six injuries, including Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge.
Tottenham also have two first-team players out in Danny Rose (knee) and Erik Lamela (hip), while Manchester United are without Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chelsea are missing Eden Hazard (knock).
From form and injuries to fatigue and remaining fixtures, how those factors will affect teams in the run-in remains to be seen. But Arsenal and Manchester United are facing a tough test.