Arsenal have been absent from the top four since the 2015-16 Premier League season. Is 2020 the year they can finally break back into the top spots? Here, Peter Watton, from matched betting specialists OddsMonkey, weighs up the Gunners’ prospects.
There was once a time, not too long ago, where Arsenal were a shoo-in for the top four. For punters up and down the country, putting money on the club to qualify for the Champion’s League was one of the safest bets around, chiefly because of the amazing consistency instilled by Arsene Wenger.
However, as all football fans know, nothing gold can stay, and in the 2016-17 season Arsenal finished in fifth place for the first time in a decade, saying goodbye to Wenger in 2018. Now with Unai Emery in charge, the club managed another fifth-place finish in 2018-19, before starting this season with a top four place firmly in their sights. But, can they do it? Let’s take a closer look at their chances.
What do the odds say about a top four finish?
There’s good news for Arsenal on the betting front. The vast majority of bookies believe that the team will finish in the top four this season, with odds of 5/6 offered at the time of writing.
These odds put them as third favourite in the Premier League to qualify for the Champion’s League, with only dead certs Man City (1/1000) and Liverpool (1/1000) ahead of them. As leaders of the pack chasing the top two in the bookies’ eyes, Arsenal’s main rivals will be Chelsea (10/11), Spurs (7/5), Leicester (7/2), and Man Utd (9/2).
While the odds are very much in favour of Arsenal making the top four, what are the chances of the club going one better and mounting a title challenge? Well, at 125/1 to take home the title and 13/1 to finish in the top two, it seems like the bookies think third is the best the club can hope for. On the betting front, it’s going to be a Liverpool-Man City race again this year, sorry!
Do the odds reflect the reality of the league?
Personally, I think that, barring some implosion, Arsenal fans can look forward to Champion’s League football in 2020. Though it may not be immediately obvious, the club have been slowly improving under Unai Emery, resulting in consistent form in the league — they’ve only lost once this season so far. This is the type of form Arsenal of old would produce, with an ability to win despite not playing well, and this is the form you need to finish in the top four.
So why have Arsenal improved? Well, in the summer, Arsenal recruited smartly to improve the team — Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney, Dani Ceballos, and Gabriel Martinelli all look like great signings — while moving on a lot of inconsistent players, like Alex Iwobi and Henrik Mkhitaryan. They’re also aided by the regular goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who looks capable of scoring in every game, reflected in his 9/2 league top goal scorer odds. On the whole, Unai Emery now has a full squad in his own image and is starting to get the most out of his players.
The club have also been helped by the misfortunes of their main rivals. Tottenham, who once looked ready to take the next step as title challengers, have been very inconsistent so far this season, while Man Utd are a shadow of themselves under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. And, while Chelsea are matching Arsenal point for point at the moment, they are currently under a transfer ban and have a very inexperienced squad that might not hold their nerve during the post-Christmas run in.
Realistically, I don’t think Arsenal will do better than third place this year. While Man City haven’t been as impressive so far in second, I still think they have extra gears to grind through to hit peak form. Liverpool, on the other hand, are relentless, and it will take something special to prise the title from their grasp. With another summer of positive squad trimming (especially in central defence), I think it may be possible for the club to put together a title challenge in 2020/21.