Arsenal kept pace with the pack as they saw off Aston Villa on Saturday but still languish uncomfortably in 5th place. However, the Blues defeat at the Etihad means the Gunners are only two points off ousting last seasons Champions League champions from next season’s running.
Spurs and former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas will likely feel their previous aggravations with Chelsea enough reason to let fate and karma do their worst. However, Spurs have been involved in one previous Champions League and do not rely as heavily on the income as their rivals.
Arsenal, for example, will be in very deep water if they fail to qualify. Manager Arsene Wenger has had his worst season in all 16 years in North London and should the Gunners fail to qualify, the fans, I fear, will revolt against the club and it’s owner Stan Kroenke.
To add insult to injury Wenger’s planned (or supposed) squad overhaul this summer would be seriously jeopardized by failure to earn admission to the continent’s most prestigious competition – the best players want to play I the Champions League and Arsenal’s failure to win silverware would be compounded to devastating effect should they finish outside the top four.
Chelsea, however, do not have that concern – they can offer the highest wages to players and outbid anyone in terms of transfer fees with Roman Abramovich backing them. While they didn't make it last year, they were handed a reprieve courtesy of their Champions League win.
However, after such a disappointing season, Rafael Benitez will almost certainly be replaced should they finish outside the top four for a second consecutive season. Equally Benitez’ potential replacement Jose Mourinho is desperate to win the Champions League for the third time with a third different club.
I suspect, should the Blues fail to qualify, it would dramatically decrease the likelihood of a return to Stamford Bridge for the Portuguese coach. Chelsea fans are desperate for him to be the ‘special one’ to lead them to future glories but many of those hopes hinge upon Champions League qualification.
Put simply: Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal all need and want Champions League football next year and, a such, the business end of this season will be a trying time for all of them equally.
Arsenal have the toughest task, being two points behind but the Gunners have pulled of greater feats in previous years and I wouldn’t, at this stage put it past them.
Chelsea can’t win the competition this year so they’re going to have to find something special to hold off the Gunners’ charge. However, should the outcome of the North London derby work in their favour, they could very well pick up the pieces.
It is still far too close to call. And certainly to close for comfort.
Who needs the top four the most?
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