A potentially decisive night in this season’s Premier League top-four race is upon us as Arsenal face Tottenham Hotspur in what is being billed as the biggest North London Derby in recent memory.
The Gunners make the short trip across town to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – where they’ve lost on their two previous visits – looking to win five consecutive league games for a second time this season, and know that Champions League football will be guaranteed if they manage to complete this mission.
Not only are Spurs in need of a win to keep their own hopes of finishing in the top-four alive, but under Antonio Conte they’ve held Liverpool home and away, whilst recording a 3-2 win over Manchester City to show they can produce a big performance when it matters.
With that said, it’s worth pointing out that failure to get all three points wouldn’t be too damaging for Arsenal thanks to the four-point cushion they established over the weekend by beating Leeds United 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium to captialise on Spurs‘ somewhat surprising draw at Anfield.
What this means is if the North London Derby ends in a draw, then the Gunners remain four points clear of Spurs with two games remaining and could even seal a top-four finish without kicking another ball.
For this to happen, Conte’s side must lose at home to Burnley on Sunday afternoon as that would make it mathematically impossible for them to finish any higher than fifth.
If Spurs were to beat Burnley the gap narrows to a single point, but Arsenal would require one win against either Newcastle United on Monday night or Everton on the final day of the season to announce their return to Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in half a decade.
Now, a Spurs win over Arsenal on Thursday night would make things very interesting and place both teams under immense pressure going into the final two games of the campaign.
The Gunners could go into the Newcastle game two points behind Tottenham in the table were they to overcome the Clarets.
As long as Arsenal pick up maximum points at St James‘ Park they will wrestle back control of the top-four race and then a win over Everton will confirm the first St Totteringham’s Day – the name given to the day when it becomes mathematically impossible for Tottenham to finish above Arsenal in the Premier League table – since May 2016.
Londonexplained the potential nightmare scenario facing Mikel Arteta where Arsenal could finish fourth with an identical record to Spurs – in terms of goal difference, head-to-head record, as well as same goals scored and conceded – but then lose a Champions League play-off which would see them qualify for the Europa League instead. Barring an outrageous set of results this scenario won’t be a reality, but knowing his side can lose to Tottenham and still end up qualifying for the Champions League is very much a dream scenario for Arteta and, perhaps, it eases the pressure slightly heading into the North London Derby.