It’s Arsenal v Tottenham for the last Champions League spot it seems. Ahead of the North London Derby Jason Pettigrove looks at who needs to be in Europe’s premier competition most.
The end of the Premier League season is seeing a number of games turning into a battle royale, and that description will fit the North London derby on May 12 perfectly.
Arsenal v Tottenham games are always marked on the calendars as soon as the fixture lists are revealed, but rarely can there have been so much riding on the outcome.
A couple of historical title-winning performances notwithstanding, there’s generally not too much more than local pride to play for – not that getting one over on your fiercest enemy should be downplayed either.
Things really couldn’t be tighter in the race for fourth place either.
At this stage, given that both Manchester United and West Ham have played more games and they still sit in the slipstream of the North London giants, you’d have to say that Champions League football is there for the taking if either Arsenal or Spurs can string a late run of positive results together.
A loss or two now would be calamitous for their chances, and whilst the Europa League is a decent fall-back option, there’s no replacing European football’s premier competition for high drama and financial reward, one of which suits the fans and the other which suits the clubs.
The question remains as to who needs the UCL more, however.
Both teams are a work in progress at present, with Mikel Arteta significantly further along the road than Antonio Conte in terms of building a squad that he’s happy with.
It can also be contended that if the Gunners weren’t to make it on this occasion, the Spaniard will be comfortable in the knowledge that he has the full backing of his paymasters and a group of non-disruptive young players that have bought into his philosophy.
By contrast, Conte never seems more than a game or two away from throwing in the towel.
If the club want to hold onto the manager and Harry Kane for example, then fourth place is a minimum requirement, followed by serious investment from Daniel Levy and the board.
The latter is by no means a given either, but in any event, it’s abundantly clear that finishing fourth this season will mean more to Spurs than their rivals from up the road.
Let battle commence!