Remember when I mentioned a month ago that the race for third and fourth was anything but over given Arsenal's closing form the last few seasons? With yet another draw, Arsenal continues to demonstrate why such a view was prescient. See the graph below for the latest on their 4-match running average PPM.
Only four matches ago the Gunners had a five point lead over Tottenham and Newcastle. That lead is now down to one and two points, respectively, heading into the final weekend of the season. While the Euro Club Index has the match outcome favoring Arsenal, recall that the Gunners haven't won since Match Day 33 on April 14th - nearly a month from the day that the finale will be played. It's worth considering how things may play out given the three outcomes available to the Arsenal match this weekend.
A loss at West Bromwich Albion next week opens the door for both Newcastle and Spurs to get through, leaving the Gunners in fifth. It would also keep their 4-match PPM at 0.75, which would be their worst finish to a season over the last three. If the Gunners were to miss out on Champions League play, either via finishing fifth or dropping to fourth and Chelsea winning the current tournament's final on May 19th, it would easily be considered the most disastrous late season performance of the Wenger Era.
A draw would ensure at least fourth table position for Arsenal, as Newcastle is too far behind in goal differential to close the gap if they were to tie Arsenal on points at the end of the season. If Tottenham were to concurrently win their finale, the Gunners would find themselves one point behind Tottenham at season's end and their Champions League aspirations at Chelsea's mercy. Their four-match PPM would rise slightly to 1.0, which would equal how they finished the prior two seasons.
A win seals the deal for third, with the summer worries isolated to squad depth and retaining Robin Van Persie's talents. A win would also raise their 4-match PPM to 1.5 - their highest finish in three years. However, this might be small consolation that would only serve to hide the fact that yet again the Gunners have run out of steam during the run-in. Under such circumstances they will have certainly backed themselves into next years Champions League based upon luck rather than skill.
It didn't have to be this way. Arsenal could have picked up a few points elsewhere during the run in to ensure they didn't need to win the final match to guarantee Champions League play next season. Yet for every dropped point they've dropped in the final eight matches, their rivals for third and fourth table position haven't been able to take full advantage of the opportunities. Thus, Arsenal finds themselves going into the final week of the season still in control of their own destiny. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, although being good enough this weekend would ensure the Gunners don't need to be lucky elsewhere.