After failing to mount a serious challenge for the English Premier League title yet again, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has urged his side to aim for a top three spot to confirm their presence in the Champions League.
Arsenal are currently third in the Premier League, only two points ahead of fourth placed Manchester City, and face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light this weekend. The teams finishing in the top three spots on the English Premier League table get automatic entry into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, while the team finishing fourth has to play a qualifying round.
With Arsenal not missing out on the Champions League for more than two decades, Arsene Wenger claims that a third place finish will ease tensions at the club.
“Top four is not Champions League. Top three, yes. That’s why it is important,” Wenger is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“We want to play against the top teams and we want to be in the Champions League.
“What has changed over the years is that the impact of the finances in the Champions League is not as big any more. For a period in the past the money was vital for us.”
Wenger explained why the Champions League qualifiers can be a hassle this season and admitted that a top four finish is still not guaranteed for Arsenal.
“When you have to play Champions League qualifiers the European Championship is still going on,” said the Frenchman. “You can play teams in the qualifiers who are in the middle of their championship because they have started already in June.
“But for us we don’t know where we finish. We are not guaranteed top four and we have to fight for that.”
Battle for fourth place to go down to the wire
Manchester City are Arsenal’s biggest challengers for third place, but with City being in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, there are several permutations in terms of Champions League qualification for England’s top teams. One such permutation could be City finishing outside the top four and winning the Champions League, which would then knock Arsenal out of Europe’s elite competition if they were to finish fourth.
Manchester United are also in contention for fourth place and with the Red Devils trailing Arsenal by just four points, Wenger’s men cannot afford any slip ups if they want to confirm their place in next season’s Champions League. With Manchester City being the Gunners’ only tough fixture on paper until the end of the season however, Arsenal’s presence in the competition is all but certain for yet another season.