Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson believes that if Arsenal miss out on Champions League football for next season, then it will be their biggest disappointment this season. The former Arsenal star also added that the Gunners are in the race and could face a weakened Chelsea side in their mid-week clash.
Less than a month ago, Arsenal were in pole position for fourth place and the final place in the Champions League but three back-to-back-to-back defeats has seen the Gunners slip off the chasing pack. That includes losses to Southampton and Brighton with the North London side now three points behind Tottenham despite Spurs losing to Brighton themselves last weekend. Not only that, they’ve been hit hard with injuries as Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney will miss the season while goals have also been hard to come by.
However, Arsenal still have a game in hand against Tottenham which means that a win against Chelsea, during the mid-week fixture, could send them back into the race. That is especially after Manchester United’s loss to Liverpool on Tuesday night and Paul Merson believes that if the Gunners fail to qualify, then it will be “their biggest disappointment. The former Arsenal winger also added that Mikel Arteta’s side have been playing just one game a week all season and should have wrapped up top four a long time ago.
“Arsenal are still in this race, but they will do really well to finish in the top four now. If they'd lost to Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City in the last few weeks you hold your hands up and you accept that they are just better teams at this time. That is a fact at the moment, and you just have to make sure you win games against the other teams,” Merson wrote in his Sky Sports column.
“They've lost to teams they should be beating. Fourth should be done now. That will be their biggest disappointment. From day one, I said Arsenal and Tottenham were not winning all their remaining games. When you watched Man City vs Liverpool the other week, it's different. With their quality, you know they could reel off seven or eight wins.
“That is not a problem for them at all. However, Arsenal and Spurs were never ever going to do that. If you go back on Soccer Saturday, a long, long time ago towards the start of the season, I said Arsenal would finish in the top four. The reasoning was that they were playing just one game a week for the majority of the season, and that is a massive advantage.”
However, Merson also shined a ray of light onto his former club’s hope for Champions League football as he believes that the Gunners will face a weakened Chelsea during their mid-week clash. The Blues beat Crystal Palace, over the weekend, in the FA Cup semi-final and Merson added that it could force Thomas Tuchel to rest a few players which helps Arsenal’s cause.
“Arsenal are still in the top-four race. This isn't a big game for Chelsea in terms of the league. Third is all but wrapped up for Thomas Tuchel's side. They are in the top four now. If Arsenal go out and show something, they've got every chance at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have had a hard week after their Champions League exploits and their FA Cup semi-final win. It might be a game where Tuchel rests a few players and Arsenal may just get a bit lucky,” he added.