A string of devastating, and humbling, defeats left a top-four finish for Arsenal more improbable than impossible, as the Gunners let the final Champions League qualifying spot slip through their fingers.
The North London outfit still have the chance to enter Europe’s premier club competition next season, regardless of where they finish in the Premier League, should they win the Europa League. But, when you see Unai Emery’s men crumble under the pressure of Christian Benteke and Matt Doherty, you have to fear for the backline’s chances of going the distance.
According to Arsenal.com Emery even admitted the drubbing at the hands of Leicester that it would be ‘very difficult’ to earn a Champions League berth, noting: “At the beginning of the season we knew it was going to be very difficult, and today it’s the same.”
Being in a position to challenge for the top-four in his maiden campaign has to be admired, though, as the Spaniard came to the Emirates following a club icon who held control for 22-years and oversaw more than 1,200 games.
In truth, however, the Gunners are only fighting for a top-four finish thanks to the calamities their London rivals, Chelsea and Tottenham, and Manchester United have likewise brought on themselves. Emery has barely made his stamp on the squad, rather he has ensured the club did not slip further away from the top like the Red Devils under David Moyes.
Nevertheless, the Champions League is a possibility for Arsenal according to Bettingtop10 as the end of the season nears, and it must be the one sole focus in North London, as it will define more than Emery’s inaugural record.
The base financial benefits from finishing fourth over fifth may not be much from the Premier League’s division of prize money, but each win in this season’s Champions League group stage was worth £2.3million, while a draw was worth £800,000.
Manchester United also banked £35.3m last year for reaching the Round of 16 under Jose Mourinho, whereas Wenger’s reward for a Semi-Finals finish in the Europa League was £32.7m.
Money like that makes a great difference when a club tackles the transfer market, and reports according to The Sun have already circulated that Arsenal will only have £40million to play with should Emery fail to guide the Emirates natives back into the top UEFA competition.
A third year in the Europa League will also make Arsenal an even more unappealing destination for potential signings, with the Gunners likely going to face competition from their Champions League-bound English rivals for talents such as Ajax wonder David Neres, and whoever Emery identifies as his replacement for the catastrophe waiting to happen Shkodran Mustafi.
Add in finding a replacement for Aaron Ramsey, improving the Gunners’ wings, and potentially new full-backs, and Emery will have to concede that the only players on offer are far from ideal when you are at the helm of a club with eyes on more than a top-four finish being everything.