Arsenal were easily the big winners from last weekend’s round of Premier League fixtures.
With the Gunners not in action, it meant they could sit back and see what their rivals for a top-four spot got up to and results could not have been more perfect for Mikel Arteta’s side.
Manchester United let a lead slip once again to draw 1-1 at home to Southampton on Saturday afternoon and then the following day Tottenham Hotspur were beaten at home by Wolves, whilst West Ham United rescued a point late on away at Leicester City.
Of course, with the Red Devils getting their game in hand out of the way with a 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday night, they are the new leaders in the race for fourth.
Now, whilst Arsenal currently sit sixth in the table, they’ve played three games fewer than Man United and that could be crucial when the final standings are revealed in May.
Even with the Gunners in action against Brentford and Wolves over the next eight days, they will still have three games in hand over their top-four rivals at the end of February.
This is because their clash with Liverpool that was scheduled for February 27, 2022 was postponed due to Jurgen Klopp’s side being in London but for the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium instead.
That is one of three Arsenal fixtures that the Premier League still need to announce new dates for.
The other two are trips to Stamford Bridge face Chelsea and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for what is shaping up to be the most important North London Derby in recent memory.
Of course, the latter fixture was supposed to have taken place last month, but Arsenal’s request to the Premier League to have the game called off due to injuries, suspension, Covid-19 cases was accepted.
Meanwhile, the Gunners were due to play Chelsea last weekend, but the Blues were busy in Abu Dhabi winning the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup.
So the big question is when Arsenal will play these three potentially defining top-four fixtures?
Well, previous decisions regarding postponed fixtures have shown that the Premier League look to rearrange games at the earliest convenience with a free midweek the preferred option.
However, the problem is Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs are all pretty busy between now and the next international break which takes place at the end of March.
Looking at Chelsea’s fixture list in March, their next available midweek slot as things stand is the week commencing the 7th following their trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley.
For Liverpool, it’s the week commencing the 14th ahead of their clash against Manchester United and the same applies to Spurs following their visit to Old Trafford on the 12th.
Furthermore, it should be noted that UEFA have already confirmed that Premier League matches can be played on the same nights which have been reserved for Champions League knockout fixtures
This means the Premier League could rearrange Arsenal’s fixtures on the 8-9 & 15-16 March despite eight Champions League round of 16 deciders taking place over those two midweek slots.
But whilst it’s possible that Arsenal could get one of their games in hand out of the way in March, it’s looking likely that the other two will be played at some point in April.
When factoring in games against Crystal Palace, Southampton, Man United and West Ham, if fixtures against two of Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are added to the schedule, then the penultimate month of the Premier League season will be a defining one for Arsenal and their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Games in hand can be a gift or a curse and the Gunners will be hopeful it’s not the latter.