Liverpool helped Tottenham Hotspur’s chances of finishing fourth, beating Manchester United on Tuesday. Will Chelsea do the same and dominate Arsenal on Wednesday?
After losing to Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend, it looked likely Spurs would drop out of the table. However, while Manchester United climbed to within three points by beating Norwich, an Arsenal loss to Southampton left Spurs alone in fourth place. Unfortunately for Tottenham, the fixtures situation in hand meant United and Arsenal would play again ahead of Spurs’ next game – on Saturday at Brentford.
Not much room for error in the top four
With Manchester United and Arsenal just three points away – and West Ham five – there’s room for error on anyone’s part. Their humiliating 4-0 defeat at Liverpool for United keeps the Red Devils three points behind Spurs in the table. Worse still for United, their declining +4 goal differential is eighth best in the league, and they have played 33 games, tied for most of any team.
Ultimately, while United still have a chance of finishing fourth – 2% according to Fivethirtyeight.com – defeat puts them in a tough hole to exit with just five games to go.
Can Chelsea also help Tottenham?
In the last five days, Arsenal now have their second chance to equalize Tottenham on points. Luckily for Spurs, their opponent is Chelsea in a London derby. Chelsea need points to extend their lead over Spurs for third from five to eight, and after being knocked out of Europe the Blues will want to secure their Champions League return.
Chelsea are by no means guaranteed to beat Arsenal, and the Gunners have arguably played some of their best football against some of the best teams, so indeed anything can happen.
The ideal from Tottenham’s perspective is a Chelsea win or, at worst, a draw, so Spurs remain ahead of Arsenal on points in the table while level on games played.
Worst case scenario for Spurs
The weird part of it all is that Tottenham could be three points behind Arsenal or even in a three-way tie – on points only – for fourth place when they take on the Bees on Saturday night.
Arsenal and Manchester United face off on Saturday afternoon. If the Gunners beat Chelsea but lost to United, the three teams, Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United, would be level on 57 points.
Worse still, Arsenal would beat both Chelsea and United to 60 points before Tottenham competed again, but at least it wouldn’t be 63. Ultimately, if Tottenham run their business – including beating Arsenal – Spurs will finish fourth. Of course, finishing fourth is all the easier if the other teams cooperate.