Arsenal: Somehow, the top four is not done

At the start of the season, Arsenal aimed to finish in the top four. Somehow, despite a terrible first half of the campaign, that goal is not yet finished.

There was one fairly obvious and widely stated goal for Arsenal football club entering the 2019/20 season: regain Champions League football. This task was charged to Unai Emery at the start of the year, ideally through a top-four finish in the Premier League, and has been the definition of the season throughout.

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Sadly for the Gunners, despite sufficient spending in the summer to overhaul a previously lacklustre squad, Emery was unable to harness this newly added talent and proceeded to leave the team well off the top-four pace. By the time he was sacked, the club was eight points off the top four and emulating relegation form for half a season stretching back to the end of last year.

However, while interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg has only marginally improved results in Emery’s stead, yielding one win, one draw and one defeat in three league matches, somehow, someway, Arsenal are not completely out of contention for a top-four finish come the end of the season.

After a victory over West Ham United ended a two-month winless run, Ljungberg steadied the ship somewhat and at least brought some smiles to a club that needed some confidence and positive spirit as they prepare for a packed and testing festive period.

The Christmas challenges start on Sunday afternoon, when they host champions Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s team may not be the juggernaut of last season, but they have routinely dispatched their north London counterparts with ease in the past and are expected to do so again.

And yet, should Arsenal somehow steal a result from the match, especially a victory, they would suddenly be right back in the thick of the top-four race, however ridiculous it may seem to say such an ambitious, unhinged statement.

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Thanks to the ineptitude of their Premier League rivals, should Ljungberg’s side win on Sunday, they will pull to within five points of the top four. Chelsea lost their third game in their last four, while Leicester City failed to beat Norwich City. Moreover, the teams between them and the top four also play crucial matches on Sunday. Wolves, who are two points clear, host Spurs, who are one point clear, while Manchester United, who are level on points with Wolves, host a rejuvenated Everton. Only Sheffield United remain in fifth.

Admittedly, any positive news from this weekend relies on Arsenal getting on a result against City, and it likely has to be a victory, but the fact that they are even in with a shout of closing the gap is quite remarkable.

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This has been a terrible start to the season for the Gunners. And yet, somehow, someway, it is not compelely dead in the water. That, in and of itself, is a massive win.