In a fortnight, another Premier League season will be consigned to the history books, and for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, there’s a chance to end the 2021/22 campaign on a high.
The main target when things got underway all the way back in August was to qualify for Europe again after missing out for the first time in over two decades this year.
Following last weekend’s 2-1 win over West Ham, that mission has been achieved as the Gunners will be in the Europa League next season at a minimum.
Champions League qualification remains a very good possibility, and after signing a new contract to keep him at Arsenal until the summer of 2025, Arteta’s short-term goal is to ensure the club are back at Europe’s top table after a five-year absence.
“To take the club to the next level and to compete really with the top teams,” the Spaniard said when asked what his ambitions are for Arsenal.
“In order to do that, we have to be playing in the Champions League. We have to be able to evolve the team, improve our players, improve all departments, generate even more connections with our fans, improve the atmosphere at the Emirates, be able to recruit top, top talent and the best people for this club to drive this project to that level.”
With the finishing line in sight, just four more fixtures remain for Arsenal this season and going into this weekend’s action from the Premier League, they sat fourth in the table with a two-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur and just three points behind Chelsea in third.
Of course, the permutations to qualify for the Champions League are simple.
The clubs that seal a top-four finish in the Premier League, as well as the winners of this season’s tournament and the Europa League, will gain entry to the competition for the 2022/23 campaign.
As Manchester United and West Ham United are not involved in the Champions League or Europa League finals, respectively, it means Arsenal have avoided one potential nightmare scenario where they finish fourth but still miss out on qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition.
As things stand, only the two title contenders in Manchester City and Liverpool are already guaranteed top-four finishes, and it will be two from Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs to complete the set following the outcome of Saturday’s fixtures which saw Man United beaten 4-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion.
One look at the Premier League table, which is accurate at the time of publication, and you can see that Chelsea are just four points clear of the Gunners in third after they threw away a 2-0 lead at home to Wolves to draw 2-2.
This means a win over Leeds will see Arteta’s side close the gap to a single point, and a top-three finish will very much be on the cards.
The dream scenario for Arsenal of clinching a Champions League spot in the North London Derby on Thursday night is a possibility after Spurs drew 1-1 with Liverpool at Anfield.
In order for this to happen, the Gunners must first beat Leeds United on Sunday and then take all three points off their big rivals.