Has the weekend opened the Champions League door for Arsenal?


Arsenal moved up to fourth in the table with a battling win at Turf Moor on Sunday and the nature of their victory was encouraging. Burnley made life extremely difficult for Arsene Wenger’s men but they kept plugging away and were ultimately rewarded with a late penalty, which Alexis Sanchez coolly dispatched. Arsenal were a long way from their best, missed the invention of Mesut Ozil and might count themselves fortunate to be awarded a bit of a soft penalty in stoppage time. But they defended diligently, put in some crunching tackles in the middle of the park and ultimately plundered a precious three points.

Meanwhile, Spurs could only draw at home to a managerless West Brom, while Chelsea and Liverpool also dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Anfield. While several big teams find themselves knackered from midweek Champions League exertions, Wenger is able to make 11 changes for the Europa League, and that should benefit the Gunners over the winter period. There is now every reason to believe that they can nail down a top-four spot, but selling Sanchez and Ozil in January would be foolhardy.

Both stars have just months left on their contracts and can start talking to other clubs in 2018 ahead of a summer Bosman move. But Arsenal may be tempted to cash in on them in January rather than lose them for free six months later. They will, however, have to be content with cut-price fees as there is so little time left on their contracts, and they will find it hard to sign replacements as January is a notoriously tricky time to do business. Even if they do sign quality players, losing Ozil and Sanchez and trying to bed in new faces would derail their momentum and could ultimately cost them a top-four spot. Earning Champions League football for 2018-19 would be as lucrative for Arsenal as cashing in on Ozil and Sanchez in January, so they may as well keep hold of them. If the club wanted to cash in on the German and the Chilean, they should have done so in the summer.

The Gunners are finally hitting their stride this season and have won four out of their last five Premiership matches. Man City are running away with the title and Arsenal have no hope of catching them, but they are now just four points behind second-placed Man Utd. Chelsea are only one point ahead, and Arsenal lead Spurs by a point and Liverpool by two. Next up they have a home fixture against Huddersfield and, while the Terriers have battled well this season, Arsenal really should take another three points from that game.

That is because Arsenal’s home record is second to none this season. At The Emirates they have won six out of six, scoring 15 and conceding four. The stadium has become a fortress and it is a daunting away trip for David Wagner’s men. Arsenal remain sixth favourites to finish in the top four, which is surprising given Liverpool’s form and Tottenham’s struggles. You can get 6/4 on Arsenal holding onto their top four place and that looks a really good bet. Spurs, Chelsea and Man Utd are into the Champions League knockout stages and Liverpool should follow them, and those games will disrupt their schedules. Arsenal are not taking the Europa League seriously and can capitalise, provided they keep the team together in January and maintain the momentum.