As the dust settles on another Champions League campaign, it will have already dawned on those connected to Arsenal that it will be at least another season without playing in the competition.
Having led the way in the exciting top-four race heading into the final six weeks of the season when Premier League action resumed after the March international break, five defeats from their remaining 10 matches ultimately proved costly as they missed out on Champions League qualification by two points.
It remains to be seen if this was the Gunners’ best chance to reclaim their top-four status, but it’s certainly a big opportunity missed as next season’s battle is sure to be just as competitive with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United – under new manager Erik ten Hag – likely to be involved.
Since Arsenal last finished in the top-four – the infamous 2015/16 season where they were runners up to Leicester City – the required points total for the final Champions League entry position declined in the subsequent five years and had the trend continued in 21/22 then it would have been a completely different story for the Gunners.
With that in mind, below is a closer look at the number of points teams finishing fourth in the Premier League table have achieved in the last six seasons and what it may tell us about what the Gunners need in order to win the top-four battle next season.
2016-17: 76 points
Arsenal missed out on a top-four finish by a single point as Liverpool got the win they needed over Middlesbrough on the final day of the season to ensure the Gunners wouldn’t be playing in the Champions League the following season for the first time since the 1996-1997 campaign.
2017-18: 75 points
Arsene Wenger’s final Premier League season as Arsenal manager was somewhat forgettable as his side finished on 63 points and way off contention for a top-four spot that was claimed by Liverpool once again. The Gunners’ away form – winning four from 19 – that year made it impossible for them to be serious contenders.
2018-19: 71 points
The season where Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man United all did their very best to avoid finishing in the top-four, but the Gunners narrowly missed out by a single point after dropping costly points at home to Crystal Palace as well as Brighton & Hove Albion in the run-in.
2019-20: 66 points
66 points was enough to also finish third in a season that ended in July 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic that halted the campaign for over three months. The pause didn’t help Arsenal’s cause as they finished on 56 points and in eighth place – their lowest finish since 1995.
2020-21: 67 points
A small increase to the required points total for the final Champions League entry position as a dramatic final day of the season saw Chelsea finish fourth despite losing 2-1 at Aston Villa. Arsenal did manage to break the 60 points barrier again, but it wasn’t enough for Europa Conference League qualification let alone a top-four spot.
2021-22: 71 points
Considering that at least 67 points was enough for a fourth-place finish in two of the last three Premier League seasons, Arsenal would have been back at Europe’s top table had the decline continued. In fact, their 69 points haul would have been enough to finish third in the 2020/21 season.
But if the 2021/22 season is any indicator that the points total needed for Champions League qualification is no longer on the decline then the Gunners must aim for over 70 points next season in order to seal a return to Europe’s top tier club competition via the Premier League route.