Tag Archives: 3rd place

Arsenal poised to pounce on transfer-targets to make the most of FA Cup success…

At a risk of sounding ingrateful while the confetti’s still getting swept up, we had better capitalise on having won the FA Cup again and finishing third in the Prem. With the first achievement, we’ve made history; with the second, we have to feel like something slipped through our fingers. Then again, a third-place finish should (and had better) pave the way for the club to sign the players we need in order to challenge Chelsea for the Prem title. In past seasons, we’ve been told by Arsène that we needed to qualify for the Champions League before signing players of a certain calibre. Whether this has been a fig-leaf for other fiduciary concerns is an open question. We know that we have needs to address if we’re to be taken seriously as contenders for the Prem title.

It’s not as if Arsène is averse to making signings early in the window, but it does seem like he needs extenuating circumstances before reaching for the cheque-book. In the summer of 2012, after all, we signed Podolski in April and Giroud in June.The signing of Santi Cazorla happened in early August, making it seem like we were for once doing our business early—however, we had finished third in 2012 and had to either convince van Persie to stay or find replacements after he left (which he would do a week after Cazorla signed…). In 2013, our only signing of note, Mesut Özil, occured on deadline-day after we had defeated Fenerbahçe to qualify for the Champions League group-stage. In 2014, we saw a splurge similar to but bigger than that of 2012, with Alexis, Chambers, and Debuchy coming in before we had defeated Beşiktaş. Welbeck came in just a few days later.

Aside from (or in addition to) the issue of Champions League qualification, one other constant that seems to tie these signings together is financial pressure. Málaga had to sell in order to balance its books. Real Madrid were looking to “balance” their books as they signed Bale from Tottenham. Barcelona were doing the same as they signed Suarez from Liverpool. Manchester United had to do something similar as they loaned in Falcao. Southampton and Newcastle have had to cope with being feeder-clubs, selling their best assets off year after year (with one of them managing quite a bit better than the other…).

Back to us, we go into the summer flush from the FA Cup triumph and a bit bitter at the third place finish. After all, we had second place in our grasp but let it slip by dropping five points at home in the final weeks—the loss to Swansea and the draw to Sunderland. Still, third place is a far cry from fourth: we won’t have to wade through the morass of Champions League qualification, whether the foe be Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, or Udinese. In other words, that fig-leaf has fallen away. We should no longer have to tell ourselves or be told that we have to be assured of qualifying for the group stage before plumping for the likes of Benzema, Vidal, or Schneiderlin.

Of those three, I’d imagine that we’ll go for one marquee signing (not that it would be one of them, necessarily), along with the signings of three or four mid-level players, similar to our dealings of a year ago. Schneiderlin emerges as a likely target, what with his ambitions of a season ago thwarted by Southampton and his desire to play in the Champions League. Benzema and Vidal seem like long shots; Real Madrid have in recent years sold di María, Morata, Özil, and Higuaín, among others and seem unlikely to part with Benzema, who works well with Ronaldo. Juventus, of course, have won the Serie A title and will face off against Barcelona for the Champions League crown next weekend; they’re unlikely to sell off a key-player like Vidal or Pogba.

Still, anything can happen and frequently does. Witness the Higuaín debacle, when everyone including his own father had him headed for Arsenal only to end up at Napoli; or the Özil orgasm, when no one knew anything of it until it happened.

As much as I hate to rain on the parade, then, we have to capitalise on the momentum that we’ve generated. Finishing third might feel like a disappointment on its face, but, together with the FA Cup victory, Arsenal looks likes a prime destination for eager players. Let’s hope that Arsène makes the most of the moment.

Thanks, as always, for your visit. I hope you’ll share your thoughts on our ambitions in the comments-section below!

Arsenal anxiously eyes up its chances for finishing above Man U…

Sorry for the delay. Between the midweek match and its outcome, I couldn’t quite come to terms. It’s one thing for Chelsea to have won the league—it’s like cheering for gravity, really—and quite another to let second place slip through our fingers as we’ve done. As it now stands, we look all but certain to finish third, and this has to feel like a letdown after rising to as high as second. That spot is now Man City’s, and there’s an outside chance that Man U could find a way past us to third. Feh. If nothing else, we’re defending a position rather than scrambling for it. On top of that, unlike the other three, we still have some silverware to fight for. Let’s get down to it, then…

● Position: 1st.
● Record: 25-9-3
● Points: 84 (75.7%)
● Form: WDWWDL
● Last match: West Brom 3-0 Chelsea
Chelsea are well and truly mailing it in now, losing 3-0 to West Brom in truly bizarre fashion.  28 mintues in, there was a bit of a scuffle in the Baggies’ area, which Fabregas tried to solve by launching the ball in, hitting Chris Brunt in the head. Red card. Perhaps Fab was making sure that he would respect Henry’s record of 20 Prem assists in a season. It’s not quite Pizzagate, that’s for sure. Moments later, in a separate incident involving John Terry but not his teammate’s girlfriend, Saido Berahino scored his second goal to earn the Baggies the win. Does anyone really care, though? Let’s move on.
● Next match: 24 May vs. Sunderland
Manchester City
● Position: 2nd
● Record: 23-7-7
● Points: 76 (68.5%)
● Form: LWWWWW
● Last match: Swansea 2-4 Man City
Effin’ Swans. You come into the Emirates and defend like your lives depend on it (although, to be honest, we helped by shooting straight at Fabianski time and time again) only to fold faster than Superman on laundry-day at home against Citeh. You could’ve been contenders. You could’ve qualified for Europa League play. Instead, you let it slip through your fingers. More to the point, you denied us a chance to finish above Man City. Oh well. Pellegrini’s men have been on a mission, scoring ten goals in two matches to ensure that they’d finish second on goal-difference and again on points. Whether this surge is enough to secure Pellegrini’s position or forestall a fire-sale is another question, though. Yes, Yaya scored, but he, like most of City’s core, is waning rather than waxing. Of their outfield players, only three players under age 27 have made more than 20 starts—Aguero, Fernando, and Mangala. Yes, Aguero inspires fear, but do Fernando or Mangala? This might have been City’s Swan-song, which is not the same as saying their goose is cooked. I’m sure Sheikh Mansour will pull a few rabbits from his hat come summer…
● Next match: 24 May vs. Southampton
● Position: 3rd
● Record: 21-9-7
● Points: 72 (64.9%)
● Form: WDWLDD
● Last match: Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland
I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Sigh. There’s no other way to look at this other than as an opportunity missed. We were in second place. We had a game in hand. Then, we dropped seven points from three matches and might count ourselves lucky to still be sitting third. We had to figure that we’d beat Swansea and Sunderland, maybe suffering a loss or earning a draw at Old Trafford. Little did we know that the draw at Old Trafford would be the highlight of the last two weeks. Still, all is not lost. A third place finish is well within our grasp—unless we lose on Sunday and Man U win in such a way that they overtake us on goal-difference. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a thing of beauty, not this abomination. However, even with City’s stumbles, we have to admit that a third-place finish is about right—maybe even a spot higher than we “should” finish,  when we consider the finances of the top-four finishers. That might be cold comfort, but it’s a far-cry better than fending off the likes of Shiteother clubs for a top-four finish…
● Next match: 24 May vs. West Brom
Manchester United
● Position: 4th
● Record: 20-9-8
● Points: 69 (62.2%)
● Form: WLLLWD
● Last match: Man U 1-1 Arsenal
It’s rare that we can suggest that Arsenal were the shrewder side against almost any opponent. However,  it must be suggested that, offered a one-goal lead at home in a fixture whose outcome would go a long way towards deciding who qualifies outright for Champions League play and who has to face a two-leg qualifier, the home-side would defend that lead. Somehow, however, Van Gaal’s side had more grandiose ambitions. Defending that early one-goal lead, they forgot that Theo Walcott likes to lurk in that almost-offside position in order to run in behind, and he manufactured an equaliser that all but extinguished Man U’s hopes of a third-place finish. With just ten minutes left to play, Man U had lost the plot in a match that would have seen them leap-frog Arsenal into third-place. 150m in transfer-fees, in a campaign bereft of Champions League commitments (not to mention League Cup and (ahem) FA Cup fixtures) have not been enough to allow Man U to qualify for Champions League play. They’ll have to deal with a two-leg qualifier—and will struggle with another summer of uncertainty: will they make Falcao’s “loan” permanent? What’s to be done with van Persie? Will de Gea bolt? And so on…
● Next match: 24 May at Hull.
With the top-four positions essentially settled, a certain malaise sets in. At our end, we have to feel like we let a fantastic finish slip through our fingers—even if the Prem title was Chelsea’s to lose from, oh, ‘round about October. From the looks of things, we’ll finish third, behind two of the most profligate spending clubs in the world and ahead of another. Not too shabby. It might have been nice to finish second, and we’ll have to answer some hard questions about why we didn’t, but we do also have an FA Cup to win. Let’s deal with the Baggies while setting our sights on a second straight FA Cup title. 

We can still mangle these Mancs, whether they're Sky Blue or Devil Red…

Once Sunday began with an improbable, last-ditch win for City at Liberty Stadium, we might be excused for mailing it in a bit at Old Trafford. After all, Yaya Touré’s winner all but cinched the belt on second place, and what else is there Arsenal to play for but third? For 75 minutes, we played in such a way that a comparison to dog food would be insulting to it, not us, and we still emerged from a stadium in which we haven’t won a Prem match for how long I don’t dare mention it (okay, September 2006). It’s not the win we clamored for, but it’s a result that sees us batten down hatches and all but dare Man U to overtake us anyway. Like it or lump it, that’s a far-cry better than we might have hoped for when the first half of the season unravelled unfolded.

I know what you’re going to say: “Man U were missing key players. We needed to win. We had a chance to do a double of sorts at Old Trafford.” To which I reply, “it’s one match. Yes, it would have been amazing to win there—but we were the visitors, up against a club that had spent £175m on transfer-fees in the summer and that waged a Prem campaign free of Champions League commitments or League and FA Cup distractions. Still on the pitch against us were some £70m of those transferred players, not to mention other additions such as Fellaini (£29m), Mata (£40m), or van Persie (£27m). Yeah, they went in without Rooney, Carrick, or Rafael, but frankly, Scarlet, I don’t give a damn. They spent so much that drunken sailors are offended.

And still, we went into the belly of the beast and played like shite only to emerge with a vital draw, a result that is almost good enough to secure us a third place finish. Yes, there’s still some business to tend to, but even at our best, it was perhaps a bit optimistic to expect a win at Old Trafford. Even if previous results (ahem, Swansea, I’m looking at you…twice) had gone our way and we’d sewn up third place, leaving Man U had nothing left to play for, pride would still have driven them to do their damnedest. No, we were not at our best for the second week in a row, but few other clubs can boast of going on a run as dynamic as the one we’ve been on since February. Hell, it might be heresy, but I’ll take a loss in a North London derby every year if it impels us an 13-match unbeaten run as it did this year.

Back to the match, let’s admit that we played like we were safe from relegation rather than safely in second place for ’round about 75 minutes. We didn’t even squeeze off a shot in the first half, even after Herrera, ironically one of the shortest players on the pitch at the time, scored from a cross in the 29th minute. Our fight-back was hardly the stuff of legends, coming only in that 75th minute—whether this corresponds to de Gea coming off (in his last appearance at Old Trafford?) is an open question. Even the equaliser, coming as it did in the 81st minute after Walcott bobbed and weaved before sending in a cross that deflected under Tyler Blackett’s foot to send Valdes the wrong way, felt a more than a bit unearned. Then again, we’ve been on the short end of enough of these situations to feel like we’re due. In fact, we might even feel a bit aggrieved not to have nicked a win. Giroud had a golden chance that he put into the side-netting in the 83rd minute and followed moments later with a penalty-shout (that would have been awfully harsh, to be honest).

For those demanding, insisting, and clamouring that we had to win, yes, a win would have been nice—but that’s not always the way things work. Yes, Man City went into a hostile environ and emerged victorious, so for us to similarly go in as visitors only to emerge with a draw might feel like failure. Then again, our result does keep a bit of heat on Man City while slamming shut the door on Man U. As it currently stands, we trail Man City by five points and lead Man U by two. We have a game in hand. Man City host Southampton, who know that a win could send them as high as fifth—their highest-ever Prem finish. Man U travel to KC Stadium to face Hull, who are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. We can do the Tigers a favor (not to mention ourselves) by clobbering Sunderland midweek, which would put not only put more pressure on Man City but would also consign Man U to a fourth place finish.

The fat lady hasn’t sung, but she’s warming up. We have that Wednesday clash with Sunderland, followed by a visit on Sunday from West Brom. Everyone kicks off at the same time on Sunday, so we’d better make sure we take care of business on Wednesday. Let’s do this.

Can Arsenal stay in 3rd, or will we slip to 4th…again?

It’s hard to get motivated this week, to be honest, after we let slip a golden opportunity to put some space between us and Man City. Instead, things feel quite a bit bleaker than they did a few days ago. Chelsea, almost taunting the rest of us, drew with Liverpool. City, of course, obliterated QPR to establish their claim on second place via goal difference, if not yet on points. At our end, of course, we lost a domestic match at home for the first time since October. Man U’s win at Selhurst Park suggests that we might have to worry more about defending a third-place finish than earning a second-place finish. Still, all is not yet lost, so let’s get to it…

● Position: 1st.
● Record: 25-9-2
● Points: 84 (77.78%)
● Form: WWDWWD
● Last match: Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
Having won the league, Chelsea might be forgiven for again playing it safe, this time after scoring early—a fifth-minute goal from John Terry. However, Steven Gerrard equalised just before halftime, and that’s where it ended. Somewhere, there are Chelsea fans seeking out Arsenal fans in order to apologise for criticizing the Invincibles when they played for draws in pursuit of history. Chelsea have won the Prem and still can’t be bothered to offer anything more entertaining than a draw. Sorry. Sour grapes. I admit it. Putting a positive spin on things, the match at least gave Gerrard a chance to enjoy himself, something he’s more than earned after a lengthy career marked more by toil than triumph for both club and country. Back to Chelsea, for all the slings and arrows I’ve slung, they get results. That, after all, is the lion’s share of why the game exists. Mourinho has shown that the ends justify the means.
● Next match: 18 May at West Brom
● Remaining fixtures: West Brom (a), Sunderland (h).

Manchester City
● Position: 2nd
● Record: 22-7-7
● Points: 73 (67.6%)
● Form: LLWWWW
● Last match: Man City 6-0 QPR
This was the kind of offensive onslaught we’ve come to expect from Man City, a side brimming with as much attacking talent and willingness to use it as we’ll see. For it to come against QPR takes nothing away from the achievement; this is precisely the kind of performance one should expect from a match pitting squads at opposite ends of the table against each other. Those six goals could prove vital as they raise Man City’s goal difference to a robust +41. Playing with an eye towards second place, Man City now have an inside track on finishing second. They can now finish on 79 points, the same as Arsenal, but boast a goal difference that is currently nine more than Arsenal’s. Should the two finish level on points, City finish second—unless Arsenal find a way to outscore their three opponents by ten more goals than City outscores their remaining two. Their final two matches do look tetchy, coming against clubs on squabbling for Europa League qualification, but it’s hard to resist the notion that they’ll claim second anyway.
● Next match: 17 May at Swansea.
● Remaining fixtures: Swansea (a), Southampton (h)

● Position: 3rd
● Record: 21-7-7
● Points: 70 (66.7%)
● Form: WWWDWL
● Last match: Arsenal 0-1 Swansea
Swansea are now only the third team to beat both Arsenal and Man U home and away in a Premier League season, repeating that feat that Chelsea pulled off in 2009-10 and that West Ham did in 2006-07. In so doing, they’ve put a serious dent in Arsenal’s ambitions for finishing second place while reminding future opponents of just how predictable Arsenal can be. Despite dominating possession to the tune of 68% and taking 23 shots, we couldn’t find a goal. Swansea defended well, it’s true, but we seemed obsessed with putting all of our shots directly at Fabianski, who proved he’s just as good as saving shots from six yards away when they’re put straight to him as he is when he has to actually dive to save them. A second-place finish, which once felt all but guaranteed, now hangs in the balance as we hope the Swans can do something similar when City pay them a visit while we invade Old Trafford with hopes of reprising our FA Cup win there back in March. Speaking of Man U, we now have to fend them off if we hope to finish third. They could climb as 74 points. If we win or draw Sunday, though, it’s over for them.
● Next match: 17 May at Man U
● Remaining fixtures: Manchester United (a), Sunderland (h), West Brom (h), Aston Villa (h—FA Cup final).

Manchester United
● Position: 4th
● Record: 20-8-8
● Points: 68 (63.0%)
● Form: WWLLLW
● Last match: Crystal Palace 1-2 Man U
Man U rode a generous penalty against Palace’s Scott Dann to go ahead, Mata putting the penalty home, and were perhaps fortunate to escape Selhurst Park with the win. Palace looked for long stretches like the better side, testing de Gea time and time again only for the keeper to be up to it each time.  Still, as with Chelsea, ends matter more than results, and this one sees Man U climb to within striking distance of a third-place finish, with Arsenal paying a visit next weekend. It remains to be seen if this was a Pyrrhic victory, as Wayne Rooney came off at halftime having aggravated his thigh-injury. He, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, and Robin van Persie are said to be ready to return for Arsenal’s visit, but Angel Di Maria, Rafael, and Michael Carrick look like they’re ruled out. Make no mistake, though: for all of the money invested in this squad, Van Gaal is determined to qualify for Champions League play and is unlikely to settle for the qualifiers. Sunday’s clash is rife with ramifications for both sides…
● Next match: 17 May vs. Arsenal.
● Remaining fixtures: Arsenal (h), Hull (h).

It’s a depressing one, I know. We had four matches to play and needed three wins and a draw to finish second. We didn’t allow for a loss, and if we did, it wasn’t supposed to happen at home. We might have tolerated a loss at Old Trafford, figuring we could make up for that by winning the other three and hoping that City dropped points against Swansea or Southampton. As it currently stands, we’ve squandered the advantage we had and now have to pin our hopes to results elsewhere. City, for what it’s worth, face two squads with something at stake. If Swansea or Southampton can take points from them, our quest for second place lives on. By the time we face off against Man U, we’ll know the Swansea-Man City result. This will only matter if we can take all three from Old Trafford. We’ve done it before; let’s do it again!

Dumped from Champions League, can Arsenal chase down Chelsea in the Prem?

After a disappointing win at AS Monaco, one good enough to win the battle but not the war, we turn our attention back to the Prem. With Chelsea and Man City having been dumped from the Champions League as well, only Everton (remember them?) carry on with continental commitments. In other words, the fight for a top-five finish has tightened quite a bit, with only Liverpool and Arsenal still fighting through fixtures in the FA Cup. Chelsea still look to have first place pretty well in the bag, but the race for second place has tightened considerably, with three teams now separated by only two points. If nothing else, it’s refreshing to see us locked in such a struggle rather than desperately hoping to climb into the top four. Without further ado, then, let’s get to it…

● Position: 1st.
● Record: 19-7-2
● Points: 64 (76.2%)
● Form: DWWDWD
● Last matches: Chelsea 2-2 PSG (UCL), Chelsea 1-1 Southampton
This has to have been a bit of a nightmare for Mourinho’s minions, who staggered to an embarrassing second-leg draw at home to ten-man PSG. Then, seeking some kind of response, the Blues could only manage another home-draw against Southampton. The Saints can be a tough nut to crack; Chelsea unleashed 22 shots on goal and must be frustrated to come away with just the point, all the more so because Costa was denied by the woodwork. Then again, Mourinho has to feel like the point helps at least a little—he now has a six-point lead over City plus that game in hand (at Leicester). Chelsea may not run away from the rest of us, but they’ve built enough of a lead that they can probably afford a hiccup or two like this last one.
● Next match: 22 March at Hull.
Manchester City
● Position: 2nd
● Record: 17-7-5
● Points: 58 (66.7%)
● Form: DWWLWL
● Last match: Burnley 1-0 Man City, Barcelona 1-0 Man City (UCL).
Two losses in three outings (three in four if we add in the loss at the Camp Nou) have got to have Pellegrini just a bit chagrined as his high-octane offense has now scored just three goals in four matches after exploding for five against Newcastle. If they can’t find a solution to this impotence—which apparently hasn’t been Bony—they run a real risk of slipping down the ranks. Already, their lead over their third-place rivals has narrowed to just one point, and they’re watching as Chelsea slowly pull away. The gap was widened to a point that City, who might have fancied a deep run in the Champions League, now have only the Prem to focus on, but they’re running short on time and options. In other words, this could be City’s second trophyless season in five years.
● Next match: 21 Match vs. West Brom
● Position: 3rd 
● Record: 17-6-6
● Points: 57 (65.5%)
● Form: LWWWWW
● Last match: Arsenal 3-0 West Ham, AS Monaco 0-2 Arsenal (UCL).
Last time we checked in, I wondered if we could reel in Man City, thinking ahead to the final weeks of the season. Here we are, now, just a point behind them thanks in part to a string of six wins, including that fantastic one at Old Trafford. Instead of an emotional letdown against the staggering, fading Irons, though, we seem to have gathered strength and confidence enough to deliver one of our more-compelling performances of the season. Of course, we’ve failed yet again in our annual quest to overcome an embarrassing first-leg defeat, bowing out to AS Monaco despite winning 0-2. At least we, by contrast with Chelsea and Man City, won our second leg. While we’re now neck-and-neck with Man City, we’re also cheek-to-jowl with Man U. It’s far too early to start penciling ourselves in for a second or even a third-place finish.  Heck, I’m not even willing to mention a certain St. Somethingerinham just yet. Yes, we’re still alive on two fronts, but can we make the most of either?
● Next match: 21 March at Newcastle.
Manchester United
● Position: 4th
● Record: 16-8-5
● Points: 56 (64.4%)
● Form: DWLWWW
● Last matches: Man U 3-0 Tottenham
Ousted from the FA Cup against Arsenal on Monday, the first time Arsenal has won there since 2006, Man U apparently went out and got some revenge on the closest available target, Tottenham. Three goals in 25 minutes ensured that Man U would match our pace in the Prem, and their deck is now cleared.  What’s more, losing to us might inspire them to scratch and claw ever-harder to overtake us, making their trip to the Emirates fraught with even more peril and significance—it’ll be the second-to-last match of the season for them; for us, it might be the third, depending on when our Sunderland match is rescheduled. Man U might have the toughest run-in of any club in the top-four, but they are packed like sardines right in with us and City all the same.
● Next match: 22 March at Liverpool.
● Position: 5th
● Record: 15-6-7
● Points: 51 (60.7%)
● Form: DWWWWW
● Last match:  Swansea 0-1 Liverpool.
The hottest squad has added yet another win to their belts, and they’ve made the top-four race even more crowded. For those wondering, this would be against Man U next Sunday (22 March), so it carries even more tension and significance than those rescheduled against Sunderland or Leicester. Liverpool have lost just three times in their last 28 matches across all competitions and have in the process eclipsed wanna-be’s like Southampton and Tottenham while others, like Newcastle and West Ham, have wilted away. Only a heated Merseyside derby draw has slowed them down in recent weeks, but they look hungry despite their inability to break down Blackburn last Sunday. The replay at Ewood Park will take place just four days after they visit the Emirates, but the form Liverpool is in suggests that this will do little to slow them down.
● Next match: 22 March vs. Man U.
● Position: 6th
● Record: 15-5-9
● Points: 50 (57.4%)
● Form: WDLLWD
● Last match: Chelsea 1-1 Southampton
Southampton have to feel good to come away from Stamford Bridge with a well-earned point, but it may not be enough to get them back into the conversation or the competition for a top-five spot. They’re now six points behind Man U, a not-insurmountable gap but one that they have precious little time to close.  They’ve enjoyed (and endured) a season that has been both exhilarating and exhausting, and they might have one last surge left in them. With a manageable run-in that closes against Man City, they are in a decent position to improve. It’s not all up to them, of course, but if they take care of their own business, they could still slip into the top five. If their defense holds up as well as it has all season, that’s a possibility even if it’s not quite a likelihood.
● Next match: 21 March vs. Burnley.
There you have it. I’d like to apologise to Tottenham (but prefer to leave it saying “I’d like to…”) for again leaving them out of consideration here. They’re not out of contention just yet (after all, they’re level on points with Southampton), but one has to draw the line somewhere even if it’s arbitrary, capricious, or worse. As mentioned above, Chelsea look likely to stay out of reach of anyone. The scrum for second could soon involve as many as four squads. With only nine matches to play and 27 points on offer, anyone who drops points against anyone else will sorely regret it, especially given how tightly packed positions two through four (and maybe five) are. Chelsea, Southampton, and Man U are free to focus on the Prem. Arsenal, Liverpool, and Man City have distractions to deal with. The picture, in other words, is a bit of a muddle.