With Arsenal now level on points with West Ham United in the Premier League table, there is talk of them being firmly in the mix for a Champions League spot.
Victory over Newcastle United on Saturday afternoon, coupled with the Hammers’ 2-1 loss away at Manchester City 24 hours later, means the Gunners are only outside the top four by virtue of their inferior goal-difference.
Furthermore, with Tottenham Hotspur not in action over the weekend after their game at Burnley was postponed due to heavy snow and Manchester United drawing 1-1 against Chelsea, a decent run over the festive period may convince many that Arsenal are genuine top-four contenders.
Mikel Arteta doesn’t want to look too far ahead at the moment, though, instead calling on his side to focus on being consistent in the league between now and the end of the season.
“We go game by game. After the defeat at Anfield you see things in a different perspective maybe,” he said after the Newcastle win. “We’ve been on a good run and we need to keep going. Let’s see where it takes us.
“Now we need to analyse this game and start to prepare the game against United as quick as possible because we don’t have many days.”
Whilst Arsenal have put themselves in a good position to end their Champions League absence for next season, five members of their loan army are doing exactly the same.
Following this weekend’s round of fixtures across Europe, William Saliba , Matteo Guendouzi , Hector Bellerin and Reiss Nelson all find themselves at clubs with a realistic chance of sealing Champions League qualification.
Meanwhile, Lucas Torreira has an outside chance of emulating his Arsenal teammates.
Saliba and Guendouzi featured in Marseille’s 1-0 win over Troyes on Sunday night – a result that leaves Jorge Sampaoli’s side fourth in the Ligue 1 table, level on points with Nice who currently occupy the Champions League third qualifying round spot.
With that said, they’re only two points off automatic Champions League qualification and have a game in hand over second-placed Rennes.
Bellerin missed Real Betis’ 3-1 win over Levante – a match in which former Gunners defender Shkodran Mustafi broke the deadlock – through suspension as Manuel Pellegrini’s side maintained their top-four push.
Nelson was a second half substitute as Feyenoord drew 0-0 with Twente to remain two points off a Champions League qualification spot, while Torreira’s Fiorentina now find themselves seven points off the top four in Serie A following their 2-1 loss at Empoli.
Of course, as things stand, of the aforementioned quintet, only Guendouzi stands to benefit if his loan club are competing in Europe’s elite competition next season as football.london understands his deal will be made permanent as long as Marseille avoid relegation.
So for Saliba to benefit too, he would also need to join the Ligue 1 club permanently and a decision regarding his long-term future will be made next summer.
The same condition applies to Bellerin, Torreira and Nelson if their respective loan clubs are in the Champions League next season.
It’s not just Champions League football that is the target for the 12 other members of Arsenal’s loan army, as some are using this season to put themselves in the shop window for potential buyers in the 2022 summer transfer window.
In addition, the club’s most promising players are using loan spells to gain valuable first-team experience.
Dinos Mavropanos helped Stuttgart return to winning ways against Mainz, whilst goalkeeper Alex Runarsson made his league debut for Belgian side OH Leuven and was also victorious against Union SG.
Daniel Ballard played 90 minutes of Millwall’s 2-1 defeat at Hull City, Tyreece John-Jules missed out on the Blackpool matchday squad for their 1-0 loss to Birmingham City and Jordi Osei-Tutu is returning to Nottingham Forest this week after training at London Colney recently to step up his recovery from injury.