There are only four Premier League fixtures kicking off at the traditional time of 3pm on Saturday this weekend and the top six sides all feature in live televised fixtures. The programme could be key in determining which sides finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions league and Arsenal away to Tottenham look most vulnerable in this context. Surely this is Arsene Wenger’s last season in charge but he seems to have more lives than a cat with a double quota.
Arsenal are not playing in the Champions League for the first season since Wenger joined the club in 1996. The title winning days are behind him but even in the darkest seasons Arsenal did not have to face the ignominy of Europa League football. They are playing in the minor European competition this season but even that is not guaranteed next year. Losing to Tottenham would not only be a blow to local pride it could scupper Arsenal’s Champions League prospects for another season.
Tottenham have had their blip and are now unbeaten in six league fixtures. That run includes the humbling of Manchester United at Wembley and a crazy away draw to Liverpool last weekend. In the space of two minutes each of the three possible outcomes was favourite. Despite the highs and lows of the last five minutes Tottenham had played well enough in the second half to win the match. They are one of just two sides (with Bournemouth) unbeaten in six starts.
Arsenal stayed in touch with the top four with a 5-1 win over Everton at home. However, that result could be more to do with the abject Everton defending than anything Arsenal produced in the final third. They had lost two of their previous three league fixtures and avoiding defeat away to Tottenham looks beyond them and Wenger could be gone sooner rather than later but certainly this summer. A drubbing at Tottenham would hardly appease the anti-Wenger brigade.
Antonio Conte doesn’t have a hope of surviving until the end of the season and as we speak Roman Abramovich could be sharpening the axe. Conte asked for a response against Watford and his team lost 4-1 to a side who had won once in 12 starts. A home defeat to West Brom on Monday Night Football could be the end for Conte and even a draw might not save his job and that could transpire. Conte could be out of work by Tuesday morning.
Despite being 13 points clear at the top of the table with 12 matches remaining Manchester City have failed to win half of their last six Premier League matches. Leicester are vying with Burnley to be the best of the rest and can improve their chances of finishing seventh by drawing at City. It is basically the same squad that won the league and in that amazing title-winning season they beat City on the road. Lightening won’t strike twice but Leicester can share the points.
Huddersfield have lost five league matches in succession and they are now finding their true level. Sadly that means an immediate return to the Championship so a win at home to Bournemouth is vital. The visitors are unbeaten in six and are now ninth in the table. Huddersfield need more than draws at home but that is the most likely outcome of this fixture. Huddersfield are the lowest scorers in the league so a goalless stalemate would not be a surprise.
Manchester United are in second place, one position and five points ahead of Liverpool. Both clubs see Champions League qualification as a minimum requirement. The status quo should be maintained with away wins at Newcastle and Southampton. Tottenham can enhance their position but it looks dire for Chelsea and Arsenal and their managers could pay with their jobs.