How Arsenal can seal top four finish and still miss out on Champions League qualification

As the dust settles on another excellent weekend in the Premier League for Arsenal, it’s worth pointing out a nightmare scenario that could deny them a return to the Champions League next season.

The latest set of results from the top-flight of English football certainly worked in the Gunners’ favour.

On Saturday evening West Ham United were narrowly beaten by Liverpool at Anfield and 24 hours later Manchester United were outclassed by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

So with the two United’s losing, it allowed Arsenal to leapfrog both in the Premier League table and take control of the top four race thanks to their 3-2 win over Watford.

Therefore, as things stand, the Premier League table makes for pleasant viewing for those with Arsenal connections.

Sitting in fourth a point clear of Man United having played three games fewer, the simple math is that if the Gunners win their remaining 13 matches of the season then they will seal a top four finish for the first time since the 2015/2016 campaign.

Although, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta isn’t looking too far ahead with 13 games left of the season – including fixtures against Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

“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,” the Spaniard said in his post-match press conference.

“I cannot control results and I cannot predict which matches we are going to win, draw or lose, it’s impossible.

“If I start to do that I think we’re going to lose focus in what we want to do.”

However, finishing fourth may not guarantee a return to the Champions League for Arsenal next season.

This is because Man United and West Ham United are still competing in Europe and due to a change in UEFA regulations back in 2013, no more than five teams from the same league can compete in Europe’s elite competition.

Thus creating a potential nightmare scenario for Arsenal as if Man United win the Champions League AND West Ham win 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.

Arsenal will not want to suffer the same fate as their bitter rivals Tottenham when they missed out on Champions League football despite finishing fourth as Chelsea took their place after lifting the trophy in May 2012.

As a result, they’ll be praying one of Man United and West Ham are knocked out of Europe as soon as possible.

For the Gunners to avoid thinking about this nightmare scenario going into April they need a favour from one of Atletico Madrid or Sevilla when the round of 16 action in both European competitions resumes over the next 10 days.