Don’t look now but with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, 5th place Arsenal is just four points behind 4th place Tottenham (with a game in hand) and five points behind 3rd place Chelsea. So, do the Gunners have what it takes to qualify for the Champions League?
A quick look at the fixture list shows it’s there for the taking.
Having been knocked out of European and domestic cups, Arsenal is afforded the trophy-less luxury of being able to focus on their nine remaining Premier League matches. Of those matches, Arsene Wenger’s side faces one Top 5 club (Manchester United at the Emirates) and the three clubs currently facing relegation (Wigan, Reading and QPR). Sweetening the deal even more is that the Gunners’ remaining home matches are winnable fixtures against Everton and Norwich while away trips to West Brom, Fulham and Newcastle are anything but daunting.
Tottenham and Chelsea’s schedules, however, are not so kind. Following the international break both clubs face a ridiculous five games in 15 days. Spurs take on Swansea away, FC Basel at home, Everton at home and Basel away before returning home three days later to play Chelsea. The Blues face a tricky away fixture at Southampton before hosting Rubin Kazan and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. Rafa Benitez’ squad then travels to Russia for the second leg against Kazan and three days later returns to London for the clash with Tottenham.
If either side advances in Europe they’ll be burdened with a two legged semi-final matchup on April 25th and May 2nd, and a final on May 15th. These matches will slot into an already busy league schedule that pits the Lillywhites against Manchester City, Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland and the Blues against Liverpool, Swansea, United, Aston Villa and Everton.
How it all plays out for Arsenal, remains to be seen. With Jack Wilshire’s fragility and the recent demotion of Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen to the bench, the Gunners are not a club without questions. But I’ll be darned if that fixture list doesn’t have Arsenal supporters frothing at the mouth.
West Ham United welcome Arsenal to the London Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) in a big London derby.
WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE
The Gunners remain unbeaten since the first day of the Premier League season but injuries are starting to pile up for Arsene Wenger after a predictably lackluster November. As for West Ham, Slaven Bilic‘s side are trying to pull away from a relegation battle after struggling in his second season in charge.
In team news West Ham make four changes from the team which lost at Manchester United in the EFL Cup in midweek with Kouyate, Antonio, Cresswell and Sakho coming in and Andy Carroll is back on the bench.
Arsenal start with Gabriel at right back and Aaron Ramsey is left out.
West Ham United: Randolph; Reid, Ogbonna, Collins, Masuaku; Noble, Obiang; Fernandes, Payet, Lanzini; Fletcher. Subs: Adrian, Nordtveit, Arbeloa, Feghouli, Carroll, Zaza, Ayew
Arsenal: Cech; Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Walcott, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Alexis. Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Holding, Rasmey, Elneny, Iwobi, Lucas.
Basically, it’s an accidental reverse rabona.
Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster has far more tremendous moments than abysmal ones, but the Saints man has committed a gaffe more likely to be seen in a men’s league.
[ STREAM: Any Premier League match live ]
A below-average men’s league at that, as an under-pressure Forster almost completely missed his clearance against Crystal Palace.
The bumbling ball was easily slotted by Christian Benteke, who will not score many easier goals in his life.
Pressure the keeper, kids.
It’s a fine day to be home in the Premier League, with multi-goal leads the norm in 10 a.m. EDT kickoffs.
[ STREAM: Any Premier League match live ]
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Swansea City
Bob Bradley‘s visitors were under siege at White Hart Lane, and Harry Kane converted a penalty before halftime. Heung-Min Son scored soon after Kane’s tally.
West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Watford
Johnny Evans has the Baggies ahead off a Chris Brunt corner at the Hawthorns, while the latter added a goal before the break to insure the lead.
Crystal Palace 2-0 Southampton
A head-scratching error by Saints keeper Fraser Forster allowed Christian Benteke a simple goal, and James Tomkins lost Oriel Romeu on a corner to make it 2-0 moments later.
Sunderland 0-0 Leicester City
In-form Victor Anichebe, Black Cats looking dangerous at home.
Stoke City 2-0 Burnley
Potters hit the woodwork through Bruno Martins Indi, but Jonathan Walters scored a nice-looking goal to give Stoke a deserved lead. Marc Muniesa then finished a Marko Arnautovic pass to make it more comfortable at the Britannia Stadium.
Things got very lively in the closing stages of Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Manchester City on Saturday.
[ MORE: 3 things learned ]
With Sergio Aguero launching into a late, high challenge on David Luiz in stoppage time with Chelsea 3-1 ahead, a huge melee broke out as Aguero was sent off by referee Anthony Taylor.
As players and coaches piled in, the mass of players pushed towards the stands as Cesc Fabregas and Fernandinho got into it. The latter pushed Fabregas into the stands and over the advertising boards and was sent off, reducing City to nine men on a bad afternoon for Pep Guardiola‘s side.
[ MORE: Chelsea beat City, win eighth-straight ]
Click play on the video above to see the entire incident develop.