The battle for fourth place in the Premier League looks like one that no one wants to win.
Arsenal remain stuck in reverse, Tottenham still have a step back for every few advances, and Manchester United are allowed to stay in contention despite barely throwing a punch.
Here, FFTs analyze a weekend of missed opportunities at the top and bottom of the table.
1. Arsenal are not ready for the return of the Champions League
💬 “It’s a huge disappointment. I think everyone in the dressing room knows it’s not enough, but we have to stick together and win again.” — Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 16, 2022
Mikel Arteta’s side entered the international break last month with a four-point cushion in fourth place and a game to spare over Manchester United, seemingly on course to return to the Champions League after a five-year absence. But the wheels broke in April, with Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Southampton a third loss in a row and one that saw them fall to sixth place. Matches against Crystal Palace, Brighton and the Saints should have been winnable for a team with ideas of returning to Europe’s elite, but a forceful attack has managed just one goal in those three games, and back-to-back meetings with Chelsea and top-rankers. -Four United rivals now look much more daunting.
2. Tottenham wasted their opportunity
Making Arsenal’s recent slump worse is the fact that rivals Tottenham were the ones to benefit, winning four in a row to take control of fourth place. But the Spurs continue to show inconsistency just when things are going well. A week after tearing apart Aston Villa 4-0, Antonio Conte’s side failed to even register a shot on goal in a turbulent 90 minutes that was possibly his worst performance since the Italian took charge. They will need to straighten things out next week against a Brentford team revitalized since the arrival of former Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen.
3. United are lucky
Problems plaguing both north London teams mean Manchester United remain in the top four almost despite themselves, three points behind Spurs ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Liverpool. After the noise of Saturday’s protests against the Glazers, United took a 2-0 lead over Norwich and then allowed the bottom-of-the-rock Canaries to equalize before Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat-trick. trick to rescue them. It was just a second win in six in the league after dropping points against relegation-battling Watford and Everton, and as the noise around Erik Ten Hag’s expected arrival as the new manager this summer mounts, the scale of the reconstruction work that it will face is obvious.
4. Burnley are still struggling but there are no easy fixes
The impact of Sean Dyche’s sacking on Friday had hardly subsided by the time Burnley started at West Ham on Sunday, but without their old manager the Clarets still looked familiar. Wout Weghorst’s second Burnley goal gave them a first-half lead, but they were unable to capitalize on it due to profligacy in front of goal likely to bring them down, with a penalty missed by Maxwel Cornet before the critical half-time as Pavel Soucek equalised. in the second half, and Burnley needed the brilliance of Nick Pope to avoid defeat. Burnley remain in touch, but that is where they have been for months: tantalizingly close without the ability to break out of the bottom three.
5. Newcastle are safe
It may not be a mathematician yet, but Newcastle can continue to draw up plans for the next transfer window with the certainty that they will play in the Premier League next season. Bruno Guimaraes’ stoppage-time goal over Leicester underlined what was already evident: the Magpies remain top, now 12 points clear of the bottom three after five successive home wins. Eddie Howe has said the summer will be one of evolution rather than revolution, as his Saudi-owned wealth will be subject to the league’s spending restrictions, but it is sure to be a fascinating summer on Tyneside.
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