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Monday, 04 February 2013

Arsenal: Can the Gunners finish in the top four?

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With 13 games of the season left to play Arsenal find themselves four points behind fourth placed Spurs in the battle for Champions League football. The Gunners have never failed to qualify for Europe's elite competition under Arsene Wenger, but there are plenty of pundits tipping them to miss out this season.

The Gunners struggled against Stoke City on Saturday, needing a deflected Podolski free kick to seal the points. Their rivals for fourth place, Spurs, Everton and Liverpool, all picked up points at the weekend, but Arsenal are still to play Spurs and Everton in the coming weeks.

So can Arsenal finish in the top four? Here is what our experts think.

YESAndy Wakeman, West Brom fan

Arsenal will finish in the top four, but it will be a close run thing. They have still not managed to sort out the defensive frailties that have dogged them over recent seasons and the midfield also looks lightweight at times. I think they will just make it in a race that will include Chelsea, Spurs and Everton for third and fourth.

NOSoohwan Trass, Manchester United fan 

No. Looking at form; despite their home win against Stoke, Arsenal have only collected eight points from an available 18 in their last six matches - compared to the 12 that Spurs have attained. However, Arsenal do have the better home record with a league best 33 goals scored at the Emirates. But it's their away form that lets them down, four wins out of 12 and only 16 goals scored. With matches away to Tottenham, Swansea, Fulham and even QPR to come, Arsenal will need to find a way to play with the same fluency away from home as they do at the Emirates.

Chelsea could sink down into the mix but I see too much quality in them. Everton, currently fifth, still have away games against Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea plus a home match against Manchester City - so I see them slipping away. 

In the end, I believe Tottenham have enough about them to keep off an inconsistent Arsenal side.

YESDavid Blackburn, Bolton fan

Arsenal can finish in the top four definitely. Chelsea have been suffering with very indifferent form of late; they can't seem to find a win. I don't think Everton will maintain their run and Arsenal always seem to have strong run in at the end of the season.

Although they only bought in one player in the transfer window, the players they got in the summer are playing well - for example Podolski and Giroud. A lot will depend on keeping Wilshere fit and now that Walcott has sorted his contract out keeping him happy. The only concern could be the defence, as clean sheets away from home seem to be a rarity - but I think they will finish in the top four.

NOTerry Kennedy, Blackburn fan

I think top four is just out of reach for Arsenal this year. Their defence is not quite strong enough and will have to settle with fifth.


YESDave Disciascio, Liverpool fan

The battle for fourth will be settled in north London. Both Arsenal and Spurs have flaws, but I believe Levy handed fourth to Arsenal on deadline day. The failure to land a fit striker, or even one that is in the country, will cost Spurs. There are only so many times they can be Bale-d out by individual brilliance from the Welshman. Be prepared for more exorbitant ticket prices for Champions League football at the Emirates.

NOMitch Waddon, Squarefootball writer

This year Arsenal will struggle to reach the top four purely because on the higher level of competition for those top four places. It seems safe to say now that Manchester United and Manchester City are secured for the Champions League, leaving Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton fighting for the other two.

It’s hard to imagine the Champions League without Arsenal in it, but this season they are going to find it very difficult to qualify. Tottenham are in very good form and I fancy Spurs to claim one of the top four spots, meaning Arsenal would be dependant on Chelsea’s poor form continuing to qualify for Europe’s top competition.

It’s very close between third and sixth but this season I think Arsenal are going to just miss out.

YESSue Read, Norwich City fan

Of course they can. Of the teams in the top 10, any of those from Chelsea down to Liverpool have the squad to take them to third or fourth place.

I see Arsenal sitting comfortably in that group, and as long as key players remain fit, they can stay in reach. Of course, it will depend on how teams around them do.

I see their main rivals as Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool (if they can find consistency). I have watched each of these teams play against my team recently, and despite Liverpool and Chelsea beating us well, it is Spurs that I see most likely to maintain form. Holtby is a real good buy. He changed the game last Wednesday when he came on against my Norwich, and did well against WBA. He and Bale are lethal. Chelsea seems out of sorts, and Liverpool are like Jekyll and Hyde.

So Arsenal, despite their up and down season, are well able to take one of those those two remaining top four berths.

NOMatthew Beeby, West Ham fan

I think Arsenal will really struggle to get fourth place this season. In recent years they've almost got there by default, but this year Spurs look much more competent. Maybe if Chelsea continue to self-destruct then maybe they'll get there again, but at the moment Arsenal just look a little bit short of the CL places.

Liverpool are certainly starting to pull together and Everton look like they will last the distance so even fifth place may be a challenge for Arsenal. But then it looked that way last year as well . . .

YESHugh Larkin, Squarefootball writer

Arsenal can certainly finish in the top four but in the past they would have been favourites - now it's an even race with Tottenham and Everton.

In their favour Arsenal have been in this position before and have always saved a place in the top four. However their squad is less impressive by the year.

NOChris Goodwin, Everton fan

Now that we have entered the final stage of the season, i.e. the completion of the transfer window, which achieves nothing except uncertainty, Arsenal have secured more than the signature of Nacho Monreal, the fact that they secured the services of their moderate English contingent is enough to bring fairer fortunes to the club.

The fact that Walcott, Gibbs and The Ox are remaining in North London should at least bring the team continued participation in next season's Champions League.  Stability is the needed necessity at any club at this team of the season and the Gunners have it abundance . . . but will they finish in the top four? Well, no. . . the spot is for Everton only!

YESSteve Coulter, Squarefootball writer

I think it will be touch and go for the Gunners. On the plus side they can always score goals, this should be enough to see off teams in the bottom half of the table.
On their day Arsenal still play some fantastic football. Arsene Wenger's side have history on their side. Arsenal always find a way to finish in the top four.
So there you have it. Our panel of experts are pretty much split down the middle. Arsenal have it all to do, but if they can beat Spurs and Everton and keep Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott fit they have a great chance. But do you think they can do it?

Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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