This might not really be news to many supporters, but casual fans and youngsters may not realize that a fourth-place finish by the Gunners this season doesn’t necessarily guarantee them a berth in the European Champions League. It rarely happens, but the UEFA rules state there are only four spots available for English teams and these won’t be bent like they were back in 2005/06 season.
England was allowed a fifth Champions League spot that year because Liverpool won the tournament in May of 2005. However, they didn’t finish in the top four in the Premier League, Everton did. Liverpool ended the season in fifth place, but was granted a spot in the Champions League the next season as cup holders and Everton was given a spot in the tournament as England’s fifth team.
If the same scenario happens this year, meaning Chelsea somehow manages to win the Champions League, it means the fourth-place finishers in the Premier League will lose their Champions League spot to Chelsea, no matter where Chelsea finishes up in the league. Of course, this is highly unlikely to happen, but it is a possibility and any true follower of sports will realize that the unthinkable does sometimes take place in sporting events.
As unlikely as it seems, it is something Arsene Wenger may want to remind his players of and how important a third-place finish is to the club this year. Of course, if Arsenal finishes in third place in the league table, then whoever sits behind them would be the team to lose their Champions League spot. If the league ended today, Spurs would be third and the Gunners would lose out if Chelsea took the Champions League.
It also means that if Arsenal does have to settle for fourth place this season then supporters should be cheering for Chelsea to knock Spurs out of the third-place spot. With Chelsea finishing anywhere in the top four, a Champions League victory by them in Munich would guarantee the top four English teams a spot in next season’s Champions League. Also, as soon as Chelsea is knocked out of the Champions League, the top four English clubs are all safe.
If a team happens to lose their Champions League spot to Chelsea they’d be given a berth in the Europa League next season. If Chelsea fails to win the European Cup on May 19 this year and finish in fifth, they’d also get the usual spot in the Europa League. A Chelsea win would be against the odds since they would have to beat Portugal’s Benfica in the quarterfinals and then take on the winner of the Barcelona vs AC Milan matchup in a semi final tie and face either APOEL Nicosia, Real Madrid, Marseille, or Bayern Munich in the final.
This situation should be enough to motivate the Gunners to keep up their fine play from now until the end of the season since third place in this year’s league could possibly mean the difference between playing in the Champions League or Europa League.