Will Arsenal's poor away form cost them a top four place?
By Joe Harker
In the Premier League the top four clubs get to compete in the Champions League, which along with playing in Europe's top club competition also brings massive financial and recruitment benefits.
Every player wants to compete in the Champions League and the massive financial bonuses give those clubs who qualify a major step up in attracting top talent. To be away from the top table for too long is a problem, as teams used to Champions League money can struggle without it.
Between the 2000/01 season and 2015/16 Arsenal qualified for the Champions League every year, but have not done so since. Having gone three seasons away from the competition they will not want to make it a fourth and so a top four finish is vital.
It's therefore a bit of a problem that the Gunners have such poor away form. Last season they only won four games away from the Emirates, this time they've currently got five wins to their name.
That is nowhere near good enough for a team attempting to finish in the top four and make it into the Champions League. A 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park was a missed opportunity to take control of the race for top four.
The Evening Standard argues that Arsenal have the easiest run in of the top six clubs but four of their remaining six games are away fixtures and could see the Gunners drop more points.
Arsenal have to face Watford, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Leicester City, Brighton and Burnley before the end of the season. Only Palace, whose away record is one of the best in the league, and Brighton are home fixtures.
If Arsenal slip up in those games you can guarantee that one or more of their rivals for the top four will capitalise on it. There isn't much time to make up ground now.
The Counter Claim:
However, Arsenal manager Unai Emery isn't worried about his team's chances of making top four by the end of the season. Their destiny is still in their hands provided they make the most of their remaining fixtures.
They are still in the driving seat for Champions League qualification. As long as they win their remaining games and stay ahead of Chelsea as far as goal difference is concerned they cannot drop out of the top four.
The defeat to Everton must galvanise Arsenal's players into finishing the season strongly, make them realise that such a poor away form is unacceptable for a club with Arsenal's objectives. They have to almost double their number of away wins for the season and ensure it is not going to be an issue in subsequent seasons.
Arsenal's away form in the Premier League this season is five wins, four draws and six defeats after 15 games. They've scored 26 goals and conceded 28, as many as relegation candidates Cardiff City in the same amount of matches.
If the Premier League were only made up of away games Arsenal would be tenth in the table, left behind by the rest of the top six and Leicester, Watford, Wolves and Crystal Palace.
With Liverpool and Manchester City all but guaranteed to take the top spots there are two places left to play for and three points separating the four teams battling it out. With six games to go any points dropped could have a huge impact on next season's objectives.