Everton thoroughly humbled Arsenal on Sunday at Goodison Park, and the Toffees are clearly in the driver’s seat to move the Gunners from a traditional Top Four perch. Roberto Martinez’s side has been oak-strong of late, and are one point back of the Gunners with a match-in-hand.
But Arsenal’s run-in could hardly be easier, while Everton faces a fortnight of very difficult matches with both Manchester clubs and Southampton on the slate.
Yet even Arsene Wenger is admitting that his club has messed up many lines in its familiar Champions League script, and is in a very troubling spot in its quest for Europe.
And, of course, he expressed it like a philosophy professor:
“The fight [for the top four] is very open and not only dependent on us,” Wenger added. “Everton are in a strong position. We have been confronted by that before and it is down to how we respond to such a disappointing performance.
“It is a massive worry to lose a game like that. We need to go back to basics.
“It is difficult to identify if it is fear. The heavy defeats away from home have taken some of our charisma away. Is that fear, is that belief, is that confidence? Maybe a bit all together.”
So, who really does have an easier road to the fourth spot? Let’s take a look.
April 12 at Sunderland
April 16 vs. Crystal Palace
April 20 vs. Manchester United
April 26 at Southampton
May 3 vs. Manchester City
May 11 at Hull City
April 15 vs. West Ham United
April 19 at Hull City
April 28 vs. Newcastle United
May 3 vs. West Bromwich Albion
May 11 at Norwich City
Strength of schedule (points-per-match/season):
Arsenal opponents, 1.05
Everton opponents, 1.41
Strength of schedule (points-per-match/PL form):
Arsenal opponents, 1.00
Everton opponents, 1.44
Record vs. remaining opponents:
What is already a baffling disintegration at the Emirates would be an absolutely massive choke job if Arsenal missed out on the Top Four. With an incredible amount of respect to what Martinez has done at Everton, Arsenal’s schedule is so much “easier” (Though the Gunners also have at least one FA Cup match to play as well).
Take the much talked-about “match-in-hand.” Presumably, Everton would have to be nearly perfect to not draw or lose one of that three-match run against United, Southampton and City. So, even considering the challenges in facing desperate teams staring down relegation, a Top Four club shouldn’t flinch.
So… will Arsenal flinch?