Chelsea’s 3-0 win versus Watford yesterday meant that, after one of the most turbulent seasons in Roman Abramovich’s reign at the club, they will return to the Champions League next term. Something that has become a minimum requirement for whoever is in the managerial hot seat at Stamford Bridge. However, after the the 2019 that Maurizio Sarri has endured, a top four finish (with a possible chance of a European trophy) should be seen as something of a real achievement.
Though many will point to the fact that Chelsea were, in part at least, handed Champions League football next season rather than earning it outright. As this season has seen one of the most bizarre top four races in recent history, with each side competing acting like they were standing by a public doorway furiously insisting the others to go before them. Arsenal in particular, who had the best run-in on paper, have since picked up just four points from an available eighteen in the past six games. And despite that kind of form they will only narrowly miss out on the top four. As Chelsea’s crucial home win versus Watford was their first in four in the league and even with that kind of form Sarri’s men have earned top four status with a game to spare.
In North London, Unai Emery will have to take a certain amount of the blame for his sides continual inability to take the situation the bull of the horns. His constant reshuffles in regard to first eleven personnel and tactics, have undoubtedly been a significant factor in his side being unable to get over the line in the past few weeks. Something that the former Sevilla manager will have to realise and improve on next season if Arsenal are visibly progress next term. Of course, a severe lack of financial backing from the board and mixed bag of a playing squad hasn’t helped and you feel will continue to not help Emery’s cause.
However, regardless of the club’s situation at boardroom level, Arsenal quite simply should have comfortably got into top four this season and they didn’t. And we all know where the buck stops when it comes to failure at big clubs these days. Emery will know that if he cannot work his historic Europa League magic in the next few weeks, he will have to then rejuvenate a squad that isn’t likely to be added to greatly in the summer and seems to lack a palpable amount of mental sternness over the course of the season.
Away from the capital, Manchester United’s sudden and severe dip in form after a blistering start to life under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer meant that had to beat Chelsea last weekend to stand any chance of gaining a well earned top four spot, but in recent times United have regressed so far back that they look more like a mid-table side rather than one who strives to compete with Europe’s best. A tepid second half showing versus Chelsea was made worse by failure to beat long relegated Huddersfield Town yesterday, meaning that United will finish a roller coaster of a season without a trophy and outside the top four. United’s epic turnaround of fortunes after Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho fades further from the memory with every poor performance churned out. Worryingly for United fans, players who seemed completely rejuvenated under the Norwegian’s guidance are now drifting through games again like they did under Mourinho.
The only thing that might give United supporters solace is that they do still possess huge financial and historic pull and therefore will not struggle to acquire new players in order to begin the process of closing the chasm that has been created between the top two and the rest of the top six. However, many will now question whether Solskjaer knows what players he needs and if he does get them if he can manage them appropriately in order to close a nearly 30 point gap that been created between the two Manchester sides this season. A process that is likely to take years not months and you wonder whether the cut throat world of modern football has the patience to stick by a manager who is still extremely inexperienced at the top level at a time where United need more guidance than they ever have since Sir Alex retired.
While the top two have dazzled the league with brilliance this season, the last nine months or so has seen the four clubs behind them struggle for any sort of consistency. Each of the clubs mentioned above, including a Spurs side that has lot thirteen times domestically this season, have all been running to stand still at various points in the season. Spurs and Chelsea have claimed third and fourth yet many will feel that especially in Chelsea’s case, this accolade could be a papering over of the cracks that needs to be addressed immediately if real progress is to be achieved next term.
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