The top four fight this season is looking increasingly tight, with four teams fighting for two places and there isn’t an assurance yet on who will make it and who will miss out, with both sides yet to get a grip on an assured position.
The top four fight took a new twist as Arsenal were beaten 1-0 by Everton to give hope to Chelsea and Manchester United who are chasing behind in 5th and 6th position respectively.
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson believes Arsenal’s away matches against Everton, Leicester City and Wolves will decide the Premier League top-four race.
With just over a month of the 2018-19 campaign remaining, Arsenal are fourth in the table, one point behind north London rivals Tottenham, and Unai Emery’s side had the opportunity to move above Spurs on Sunday when they travelled to Goodison Park to face Everton, which the Gunners eventually lost.
Merson believes that Sunday’s fixture was one of three that will determine whether Arsenal qualify for the Champions League or slip outside of the top four.
“This is a massive match,” Merson said ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Everton.
“Arsenal have got five away games left from seven. I think they can afford to lose one game, when you can do that you want to make sure it’s not the first one of the seven otherwise that puts you under real pressure.
“Everton rinsed West Ham last week and if it wasn’t for Lukasz Fabianski I don’t know what the score would have been.
“But I don’t forget how bad Everton were in the first half against Chelsea before and if they play anything like that I think Arsenal will blow them away as they are very good going forward.”
Arsenal have a poor record away from home and have kept just one clean sheet in their last 25 away games.
For Chelsea, the Blues have the opportunity to go up to third if they beat West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Monday night albeit having played one game more than their rivals, and Merson is backing Chelsea to win the game 3-0.
Merson said: “West Ham are on the beach a bit as they are safe and going nowhere. They were very fortunate against Huddersfield when they won 4-3, that papered over the cracks, and then they got found out against Everton and if it wasn’t for Fabianski it could have been any score.
“I thought Chelsea were very good against Brighton, it’s probably the best I have seen them play in a long time.
“I expect Chelsea to win comfortably, but how many will be thinking about their Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday? Especially the manager as he hasn’t won anything. Coming fourth in the league won’t make a difference to him but winning the Europa is massive, so it will be interesting to see how he sets up.
“He has an excuse with his team selection because he could turn around and say he is looking at Thursday. If you were him that’s what you would be looking at. I think they might play their strongest team on Thursday.”