Who are Arsenal’s biggest Top 4 rivals?

Mikel Arteta leads out the Arsenal back room staff

After an unexpected and exhilarating end to the transfer window it is time to take stock.

Everyone agrees that adding Thomas Partey to our squad has significantly strengthened it. His arrival also gives Action Man more options in how to set up the team.

Signing a 27-year-old at the peak of his game, as well as a Premier League old hand like Willian, inclines me to think that the club is making a serious bid for a Champions League spot this season.

I know some will say “Of course! That should be the least of our aims,” but let’s be realistic: we finished eighth in the league last season, 43 points behind the champions and 10 points adrift of fourth place. It is by no means automatic that we are in the race for top four this time round. In fact, we could have a considerably improved season and finish sixth or fifth, just a point or two off the fourth spot. It would be progress, even if it didn’t get us Champions League football.

But, as I say, I think the club is serious about bouncing back up to where we belong in this campaign and that’s why they splashed out on Partey (the whole amount paid up front in cash, bear in mind), re-signed Aubameyang on a lucrative deal as well as signing Willian.

So, if we’re going for Top 4, whom do we have to be better than?

I’m going to argue that Liverpool and Manchester City are shoo-ins for two of the top four spots (notwithstanding some strange results in the early part of the season). Feel free to argue in comments if you think differently.

So that means we are fighting for one of two spots.

The other main contenders for those places are Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United and Totteringham. I’m also going to throw Everton in the mix because they have started well under an excellent manager and have also made some really good acquisitions. I am tempted to add Aston Villa too.

Of those teams – our direct rivals, if you like – who is strongest?

The Spuds’ front three of Bale, Kane and Son is extremely dangerous and their manager, for all his faults, is a proven winner. Sad to say, I see our noisy neighbours being very much in the Top 4 chase unless Mourinho’s notorious divide-and-rule approach to management causes internal divisions. However, it’s also worth pointing out that despite that attacking threesome, the Spuds lack strength in depth.

Manchester United are also a serious threat, particularly since adding Cavani to their squad. If he can stay fit (a very big IF) he could transform the team’s fortunes. But United’s biggest handicap is their manager. Ole Gunnar has never looked the part and after the recent thrashing at the hands of the Totts he could soon be Ole Goner. I just hope he’s still there when we play them in a couple of weeks. Despite the money and the history and big signings I see United staying off the pace unless they get a really good new manager in, in which case we’ll need to watch out. Pochettino anyone?

Chelsea made it into fourth place last season and will be there or there abouts this time round. As with Man Utd, I think their coach is their weakness. Although he has looked better than Solskjaer, I don’t find Frank Lampard convincing. Nevertheless, the Chavs were the biggest spenders in the Premier League during this transfer window and they have an abundance of quality players.

Leicester are just always in the mix these days (they finished fifth last year) and always seem to punch above their weight. With Vardy still as lethal as ever they will continue to do well. There’ll be no repeat of their magical 2016 triumph, but they can’t be ruled out of top four contention.

Everton worry me. Ancelotti really knows his business and he’s made some great additions to their squad, not least James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure. I see them pushing hard all season long. Maybe overall squad strength will turn out to be their Achille’s heel, particularly if key players get injured.

Finally, a word for Aston Villa. Their thrashing of Liverpool is being considered a one-off, but they are a well organised team with some outstanding players, especially Grealish. Adding Ross Barkley at the end of the transfer window was also an excellent bit of business. He has under-performed for much of his career but I have a feeling that Villa (and a partnership with Grealish) will bring out the best in him.

So where does that leave us?

Right now, I see the fight for third and fourth place coming down to Arsenal, Everton and Totteringham, with the two London clubs having enough to edge out the Toffees at the death.

And my prediction for the end of season table is this:

  1. Liverpool
  2. Manchester City
  3. Arsenal
  4. Totteringham
  5. Everton
  6. Chelsea
  7. Leicester City
  8. Aston Villa
  9. Manchester United

What do you think?

RockyLives

40 Responses to Who are Arsenal’s biggest Top 4 rivals?

  1. RA says:

    Good morning, Rocket,

    A super post which is a rational prediction as to where the top clubs are likely to finish a propos Champions League qualification.

    There are so many clubs in the mix nowadays, which is not a bad thing as it keeps interest alive for so many fans.

    What I would like to know is — what happened to those years when Manure and Arsenal always fought for the Premiership, and qualification for the CL was a given? 🌝

    I had a time over the years when I blogged here and there on a whim, and I was amazed at the credulity of some fans who sneered when we managed to qualify for the CL, sometimes by the skin of our teeth.

    I frequently read, “Wenger is playing for CL qualification, when a club like Arsenal should be playing to win the CL” – we all want that, but it is not a god given right. Wenger went on to get the team qualified for 21 years, with ferocious voices yelling that he should go — and he did, but in the last 3 years since he was sacked, we have not been in with a sniff of qualifying. Strange that.

    Not that I want to open up the debate over Wenger, that’s history, and his record of qualifying for the CL is fact.

    Hopefully Mikel will bring those good times back – I’m sure he will.

    Your prediction about which clubs will make it into the top 9 at the end of the season is sound, but the positions of each club within that list will be subject to many variables and are too difficult to calculate. — tho a good guess is always fun. 🤪

  2. RA says:

    LB,

    You took my teasing over your comment about the content and timing of the Gunnersaurus very well — you’ll have to get me back.

    That should not be difficult as in recent times I have been called a clown (which I quite liked, actually) and as a goldfish with a lapsing memory (I spoke to others in my goldfish shoal, and none of us could remember what Oz Gunner claimed we’d forgotten – so there.) 😳

  3. ABHISHEK says:

    There is no way MU finish 9th. If they are slipping downward their management will simply go and buy from other leagues in January like they did with Bruno Fernandes

  4. RockyLives says:

    Very good Redders.

    I totally concur with your thoughts on Wenger and the top 4.

    There was a period when he got is into that precious quartet every year despite having no money for signings (some years our net outgoings on players were less than zero and we were always in the bottom two or three in the EPL for spending).

    In some ways that achievement was on a par with his earlier trophy winning achievements.

  5. RockyLives says:

    Redders
    I’m surprised you didn’t comment on the obvious rose tinted element to my end-of-season predictions.

    I definitely think we could finish third, but I won’t be betting the house on it.

  6. Pete the Thirst says:

    One swallow and summer comes to mind. Partey improves us massively, but it’s going to be tricky to make that top 4. If Arteta does it then he deserves all the plaudits.

    @RA you’re tempting that can of worms to be opened aren’t you?

    Sad to see a couple of Wenger’s projects released from contract (Wilshere & Welbeck). Were they ever good enough? Injuries robbed us of the chance to have a clear judgement. At least our call to let them leave the Club was proved correct.

    Now if only that ‘nice’ Mr Erdogun would come in and persuade his mate Ozil to join his club in Istanbul…

  7. LBG says:

    Thanks for the post Rocky.
    You have got some guts naming your top nine.
    My thoughts would be close to you on Manure and would bet on a new manager before end of season. Likewise, I think Frank will have a harder job than he thinks settling in his multi buys.(Outside top six, I think). I’ve got more respect than you perhaps for Leicester and think Ancelotti has got the nous to keep Everton high up for most of the season. Surprised no mention of Wolves or even Palace ( above the Villa anyway). That leaves the Dippers, who may just scrape the top spot when VVD gets injured, Shitty who may end up out of the top four, and Totteringham……well they are Totteringham!!
    Third for the mighty Gooners will do me! Anyone for a flying pig sandwich!!

  8. RA says:

    Rocky,

    I am delighted that I managed to surprise you by not saying something!!

    We know each other too well after all these years, so surprising each other with unexpected views is a hard thing to do.

    Actually in this case there is no surprise really, because I think 3rd will do nicely for Arsenal, and however fanciful that might be at this remove it works for me! 😁

  9. RockyLives says:

    Redders

    I am unsurprised by your lack of surprise at my surprise at your non comment.

    I think that’s cleared that up. 🙂

  10. RA says:

    Pete,

    I did not want to open the gates to indulge ourselves in discussions about Wenger as it was pointless then and even more so now he has gone.

    My reason for raising the point was only to make the comparison that in recent times we have all been sweating on qualifying for the CL, and attracting top players (if we had the money), and have had to make do with the Europa, whereas, in the past, we just took it for granted that Wenger, as the manager, delivered CL qualifying every year.

    There are so many teams now, who are pouring money into buying quality players, over the last couple of years, because clubs like Everton, Leicester, Villa, Wolves, and others, are now owned by billionaires who want results.

    Not sure that has always been the case with Mr Kroenke, altho, to be fair, he has spent millions on younger, somewhat cheaper players with great potential last year and this, and we are all pleased with having a Partey in the latest window, but our transfer money is still lower than that many other clubs’ are spending.

  11. RA says:

    Rock,

    I am in fact now surprised at your lack of surprise at my unsurprise, at your stated surprise because of my non-stated non-surprise in a comment I did not make.

    I have often had to remind you that although you have occasionally understood what I have written, I hope you realise that what you understood was not what I actually meant. 😁

  12. RockyLives says:

    Even clearer – thanks Redders.

  13. GoonerB says:

    I’m not surprised that I am unsurprised that I have no bloody clue what you 2 are on about.

  14. oz gunner says:

    My top 4.

    Arsenal

    Stuff the rest. We have no competition.

    They can fight over the scraps.

  15. oz gunner says:

    @ LBG

    Don’t mistake me thinking ozil is an oxygen thief for how i feel about arsenal. I always go into a season thinking we will win the league until it’s mathematically impossible.

    I’m even more bullish with a manager that has a clear message and a the desire to do whatever is necessary to win. That includes shelving players that don’t get with the program.

  16. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky

    My answer is that this could be the most open top 4 battle in recent times with all the clubs you have mentioned having the potential to fill those spots. Each club has great strengths but each also has a potential chink in the armour in certain parts of the team, so it depends on which clubs weakness exposes them the most as the season progresses.

    A club that is really strong in one or two parts of their squad can generally beat any other club in a stand alone game but will likely drop points across a 38 game season due to those weakness. This is kind of where arsenal were under Arsene for the latter 10 years of his tenure. we could beat anyone but couldn’t sustain consistency across 38 league games.

    The club that wins the league is normally strong in all areas of the team, with no obvious weakness. The weekends result aside, this more or less describes Liverpool. City failed last year because, despite being possibly the strongest in midfield and attack, they had a chink in their armour in defence. Have they done enough to address this?

    I agree Rocky that I still expect Liverpool and City to be the top 2 that everyone else is trying to close the gap on, despite a couple of weird results for both of them…..but this could also be a season to say “well you never know” and maybe they are there to be got at due to the number of stronger clubs in the chasing pack that could have a quantum leap improvement this season.

    Right now a front 3 of Kane, Bale and Son could blow any other team away in a goal fest. However, I still don’t think Spurs defence is top notch and that could cause some dropped points at times in the season.

    Chelsea are almost a carbon copy of that spurs description and, as others have said, need to gel all these new quality players together.

    Man Utd also have excellent firepower (increased with the Cavani addition) but are suspect in defence. However there may be bigger problems at Utd because the team as a whole seem to be underporming and have looked disjointed even before the Spurs game, so it may not just be a question of a lack of quality in one area of the team with them. They did go transition from underperforming to a great run last season though so can we expect a sudden upturn with them?

    Everton and Leicester are both looking strong and in stand alone games look really hard to beat, but maybe don’t have that strength in depth across the whole season. I expect to see dropped points against teams they are generally better than at times.

    Then Arsenal. Well I have to say I feel the TW was a strong one. I have moaned about balance (or a lack of it) with us for years. We seemed to buy in positions we were already top heavy in and ignore glaring weak areas of the team.

    For once I feel we have really strong squad balance and squad depth. The combination of Artetas coaching and attention to detail in how we operate without the ball added to the defence and defensive midfield additions makes me think we are now the most solid and difficult to break down since maybe 2004.

    The one question mark has been in creating enough chances and unlocking certain teams. Well for me the firepower is there. With everyone assumed fit we must have enough to really open up and hurt teams with the following:
    Aubamayeng, Lacazette, Nketieh, Willian, Pepe, Saka, Ceballos, Smith-Rowe, Nelson, Ozil.

    Personally I don’t see any squad quality issue here. I think, (like others), that a simple tweak to a 4-3-3 from 3-4-3 makes all the difference with this issue.

    We should now have the organisation, understanding and additional players to be solid in a 4-3-3 and get that extra attacking central midfielder into the set up that could make a massive difference.

    I feel we have many options as well with some players like Saka, Willian and Ceballos who could all potentially play that most advanced CM role. I am also hoping Pepe can have a massive break-through season because if we get him and Auba both scoring prolifically at the same time we will have what Liverpool have with Mane and Salah.

    Without getting carried away I don’t see too many glaring weaknesses in our squad now, and we also have great squad depth, so if we can remain solid while transitioning to the more attack minded 4-3-3, a top 4 place could be ours to lose.

  17. GoonerB says:

    I missed Martinelli in our attack considerations but actually think he will be only be making tentative appearances far later this season.

  18. RA says:

    Hi GB,

    First: I had hoped you would explain. to Rocky and me what the hell we were talking about. Especially what I was talking about – I have not got a clue.

    Second: A fine comment at 12:39. It is a great response to Rocky’s Post and I liked your usual enthusiastic attitude. Excellent.

    I think we might well revert to a 4:4:2 or a 4:3:3 — but I would not be surprised (that word again) if we continue to play 3:4:3 as we have adopted the current whizz tactic of playing out from the back (Grrr) and counterattacking.
    It’s worked pretty well so far.

  19. oz gunner says:

    @ GB

    Good comment.

    I agree. I’d like to see Willian, ceb, and saka all tried centrally. I think that’s an option with partey in the team. Pepe is too good to be an impact sub. Auba left, laca central, pepe right, saka as attacking mid with a partey – xhaka/ceb midfield pairing depending on opposition. A xhaka and partey pairing would allow for coverage for our attacking fullbacks.

    To me that really reads like a team that can challenge. But…we do need the laca or old, a pepe that reaches his potential amd some luck on the injury front.

  20. Pete the Thirst says:

    @RA you opened the door then closed it. I won’t mention the ten plus years of managed decline then…

    A few names mentioned above:

    Bale – is constantly injured. He will play half a season at most

    Cavani – massively over-rated. Needs 5 shots to get one on target (does our resident PSG/Arsenal Belgian correspondent have a view?)

    You’re welcome…

  21. Sue says:

    Oh great, now Tesco (KT) is having to self isolate for 14 days after having been in close contact with Stuart Armstrong, who has tested positive. He’ll miss City…. noooooo!!!! 😫

  22. Paul says:

    Adding 10 or more points to make top four, if the points required for top four is the same as last season, does not seem at all beyond us considering we played half a season under Emery.

  23. Le Coq Monster says:

    Don`t get that Sue!…………………….surely the club can have him tested and if ok can play!

    Lets get this Partey started!

  24. Le Coq Monster says:

    You know what is the biggest surprise of the week?……………….The surprise Ozil will get when he finds out Gunnersaurus is on £400,000 per week!

  25. Sue says:

    Nketiah scored again for England U21s today…He’s now the joint top scorer for England at this level, along with Shearer and Jeffers! Nice one, Eddie!! 📞👏

  26. RockyLives says:

    Coq 😀

    Sue – equal with Shearer and Jeffers? Hmmm… I wonder which one would it be better for him to take after?

    Paul – that’s my thinking too. Just think about how many times since MA took over that we have said “we’d have lost that under Emery” or “we would never have held on under Emery.”

    I think we’ve seen a couple of games already where the greater organisation and sense of purpose we have under Mikel has secured us points which might have gone begging last season (West Ham and Sheffield Utd). We took six points from those fixtures this season, under Emery might well have been four points, two points or worse.

  27. LBG says:

    Bloody Scots! Tierney out of Manshitty game, having to self isolate for 14 days!!🤬

  28. LBG says:

    Sorry Sue, didnt see you had this under control!

  29. LB says:

    Sue

    Why is KT nicknamed “Tesco”?

  30. LBG says:

    LB
    Turned up with wash stuff in a Tesco carrier bag for game.

  31. Le Coq Monster says:

    Given that “Tesco” lived in Glasgow where you could be sentenced to life in prison in a cell with a drunken nymphomaniac brandishing a chopper the size of a caber if you were a tea totaller, I would have thought that even the most potent case of covid would be like a mild hangover for average sweaty sock!

  32. LB says:

    Man of the people………….I like him even more.

  33. Le Coq Monster says:

    Shit!!!…………………………ironically from my last comment, Scotlands pubs across the central belt will be shutdown for 16 days effecting 70% of drunken socks……………………Question?………………..currently, how high is Adrians Wall ?

  34. RockyLives says:

    LB – exactly! No Waitrose tosser he.

  35. Le Coq Monster says:

    Thomas Partey good sign is his anagram………………….A Teams Trophy!

  36. fatgingergooner says:

    It also spells Top Hat Ramsey though so who knows what to believe? 🤷‍♂️

    Everton have played nobody yet and I fully expect a hurt Liverpool side to give them a good beating when they meet after the break. Sure, they’ve improved, but it won’t be long before we see the frailty of their squad and their terrible goalkeeper. Villa had a great result against Liverpool but it was nothing more than a freak effort. Some of the deflections were unbelievable! It will have given some hope to the rest of the PL in terms of catching Liverpool, but I suspect it will do the opposite in that Klopp will correct the wrongs and his team will spark into life. However, it’s notoriously difficult to retain the title due to a drop in effort and that could cost them in the end. With City I expect them to be much closer at the end of the season and they are my bet to win it. If they get Dias and Laporte fit, Aguero back, and most importantly can keep Fernandinho and Rodri shielding the back 4 for most of the season, then they will be very difficult to beat.

    The results so far stink of pre-season. They say that the league doesn’t start until after Xmas and I don’t think it could be more accurate than this year. There will no doubt be some odd results early on, but come January you will see the stronger squads competing at the top. There will be more injuries than ever this year and that can only help the bigger clubs.

    It will be interesting to see how Europe impacts the teams involved. Spurs have played more than most already and because of that they look very sharp recently, but it could be a problem towards the end of the season. Kane never seems to last a season and their back up is poor.

    With Arsenal, I really like what Arteta is doing. The fact he is getting so much from our fringe players gives me hope. In the last 15 years the drop from first team player to sub has been too great. Even 2 injuries have cost us valuable points. With Arteta I feel he is capable of shuffling the pack against the majority of sides to get the result.

    Someone mentioned earlier about Wenger doing a great job getting us top 4 without spending, but the reason he managed it was the huge gap from top 4 to everyone else, that had been built for years by the same sides getting that CL money. Thats all changed now though and the teams from 5-10 have never been as good as they are now due to the TV money allowing them to attract top managers and players to their sides. Never before have teams in those positions been able to get CL winning managers and spend £30m-£40m on a single player. More importantly though they are no longer in a position where they have to sell their best players to the bigger sides. I remember years ago talking about how Everton rejecting City’s bids for Stones was a turning point, and so it’s proved. Barcelona wanted Richarlison not long ago but Everton could say no to £90m. Palace still have a £60m Zaha. Villa managed to get a £50m Grealish to sign a long term deal. Wolves have a world class CF in Jimenez. These players would’ve been at Arsenal, Chelsea, United and City only 5 years ago. The point is that whilst what Wenger did was fantastic, Arteta’s task is 10 times that, and if he can get us into a top 4 position this year, it’s not because of the money he’s spent (everyone else has done same!) but because of the work he’s done off the field on attitude and tactics.

  37. RockyLives says:

    Love the anagrams chaps

  38. LB says:

    Top comment Slim

  39. LB says:

    Well it seems that my prediction that Ozil will feature against Dundalk and Molede just fell flat on its face; he has been left out of the squad.

    Must be to avoid him being cup tied and thus making him more attractive to a potential buyer.

    I’m clutching at straws here. lol

  40. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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