Between 1996 and 2016, Arsenal finished every season in the top four of the Premier League. Since then, they have finished fifth and sixth and will want to avoid missing out for a third-straight year.
Once a team drops out of the top four, it can be hard to get back in. Liverpool managed just one top-four finish in seven seasons after slipping to seventh in 2009/10. Prior to that, they had nailed a top-four spot in 12 out of 15 seasons. And Manchester United have finished in a Champions League spot just twice since Alex Ferguson quit in 2013 and are on course to miss out again this season.
The key thing is to stop the rot setting in, something that Liverpool addressed with the appointment of Jurgen Klopp. In North London, the recruitment of Unai Emery also looks to have injected some fresh impetus into the Gunners.
The challenge of reaching those coveted Champions League positions is set to be even tougher this year with Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur all in great form. For a team like Arsenal, undergoing a season of transition following the exit of Arsene Wenger, breaking into that group would be a remarkable achievement. But with 11 games played, Unai Emery’s men are just a point behind Spurs and are unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions.
In the league, Arsenal are unbeaten in nine with seven wins and two draws. That kind of form translated over the course of a season should see them across the line. But its early days and there are bound to be setbacks. And, ultimately, it is how the team deals with adverse situations that will count. They are currently 5/4 to make the top four in the bet365 Premier League betting odds while 20-time former champions Manchester United are way back at 11/4.
The Gunners are going strong in the Europa League and the League Cup, so the fixtures will come thick and fast. Unai Emery has an incredible track record in UEFA’s second-tier competition so he will view that as another realistic avenue to Champions League qualification.
The only worrying sign has been their form against the title challengers. In three games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, they came away with just one point. However, the defeats to Chelsea and City came in Emery’s first two games in charge so he could be forgiven for floundering after being thrown in at the deep end.
In the home draw against Liverpool, the team bounced back after going a goal down – hopefully, a positive sign of the new-found confidence in the squad. If the next couple of results go as expected, the North London derby in December could give them a chance to break into the top four. If they can remain there heading into the January transfer window, Arsenal fans might begin to get genuinely excited about the future.