Liverpool aided Tottenham Hotspur’s chances of finishing fourth, beating Manchester United on Tuesday. Will Chelsea do the same and top Arsenal on Wednesday?
After losing to Brighton & Hove Albion this past weekend, it seemed likely Spurs would drop down the table. However, while Manchester United climbed within three points by defeating Norwich, an Arsenal loss to Southampton left Spurs all alone in fourth place. Unfortunately for Tottenham, the games in hand situation meant that both United and Arsenal would play again before Spurs’ next play – Saturday at Brentford.
Not much room for error in top-four race
With Manchester United and Arsenal only three points back – and West Ham five – there is litter margin for error on anyone’s part. Their humiliating 4-0 loss at Liverpool for United keeps the Red Devils three points behind Spurs in the table. Worse yet for United, their dropping goal differential of +4 is the eighth-best in the league, and they have played 33 games, tied for the most of any team.
Ultimately, while United still has an outside shot at finishing fourth – 2% according to Fivethirtyeight.com – the loss puts them in a difficult hole to climb out of with only five matches left to play.
Can Chelsea help Tottenham too?
In the last five days, Arsenal now has their second chance to draw level with Tottenham on points. Fortunately for Spurs, their opponent is Chelsea in a London derby. Chelsea needs the points to stretch their lead on Spurs for Third from five to eight, and having been knocked out of Europe, the Blues will want to ensure their return to the Champions League.
Chelsea is by no means guaranteed to beat Arsenal, and arguably the Gunners have played some of their best football against some of the better teams, so indeed, anything can happen.
The ideal from a Tottenham perspective is a Chelsea win or, at worst, a draw, so Spurs stay ahead of Arsenal on points in the table while being level on games played.
Worst case scenario for Spurs
The strange part of all this is that Tottenham could be three points behind Arsenal or even in a three-way tie – on points only – for fourth place by the time they take on the Bees Saturday evening.
Arsenal and Manchester United play each other Saturday afternoon. If the Gunners beat Chelsea but lose to United, all three teams, Spurs, Arsenal, and Manchester United, would be tied on 57 points.
Even worse would be Arsenal beating both Chelsea and United, going to 60 points before Tottenham competes again, but at least it would not be 63. Ultimately, if Tottenham handles their business – including beating Arsenal – Spurs will finish fourth. Of course, finishing fourth is all the easier if other teams cooperate.