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Why Arsene Wenger's fourth-place 'trophy' is no longer a joke

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Why Arsene Wenger’s fourth-place ‘trophy’ is no longer a joke… and find out who Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton and Martin Keown think will make Champions League places

  • Arsene Wenger once claimed ‘the first trophy is to finish in the top four’
  • There was much sniggering and ridicule but there are always converts 
  • Champions League places look set to come down to an eight-game sprint 

Matt Barlow for the Daily Mail

When Arsene Wenger claimed ‘the first trophy is to finish in the top four’ there was much sniggering and ridicule – but at this time of year there are always converts to his way of thinking.

You might even find some at Chelsea this year, on the rebound from a six-goal humiliation at Manchester City last month and desperately trying to avoid a third season out of four outside the Champions League.

‘The game when we lost 6-0, I think we had a click and said we need to do it together, there are three or four months to play and we want to finish in the top four,’ said Eden Hazard.

Arsene Wenger once claimed 'the first trophy is to finish in the top four' when at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger once claimed ‘the first trophy is to finish in the top four’ when at Arsenal

The Belgian salvaged a point for Chelsea with a late equaliser against Wolves on Sunday and, although it felt like a missed opportunity, it served to tighten the race for the two Champions League places behind title challengers Manchester City and Liverpool.

Chelsea are the only one of the four in Premier League action next weekend, and a victory at Everton will see them draw level with Arsenal. Then it will come down to an eight-game sprint.

Tottenham will start with a points advantage and the benefit of having five of their last eight games at home, even though they must travel to both Liverpool and City. 

Eden Hazard salvaged a point for Chelsea with a late equaliser against Wolves on Sunday

Eden Hazard salvaged a point for Chelsea with a late equaliser against Wolves on Sunday

Eden Hazard salvaged a point for Chelsea with a late equaliser against Wolves on Sunday

Tottenham have a points advantage in the league but have taken only one out of the last 12

Tottenham have a points advantage in the league but have taken only one out of the last 12

Tottenham have a points advantage in the league but have taken only one out of the last 12



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Season at a glance

  • Premier League
  • Premier League
  • Championship
  • League One
  • League Two
  • Scottish Premiership
  • Scottish Div 1
  • Scottish Div 2
  • Scottish Div 3
  • Ligue 1
  • Serie A
  • La Liga
  • Bundesliga

The great imponderable for Mauricio Pochettino is how his players will react to the switch to their new stadium next month. 

Home form in the final season at White Hart Lane was phenomenal but the new place will bear little resemblance and they encountered early problems at Wembley.

Spurs have hit terrible form with only one point out of the last 12. Manchester United have taken seven from their last four games, which is identical to Chelsea.

Arsenal, on the outside of the Champions League for two years, eased up into fourth with 10 points from 12 when they beat United on Sunday, and have a friendly run-in.

Five of their last eight fixtures are away from home, however, and Unai Emery’s team have been inconsistent on the road.

Points will be dropped in unexpected places while Chelsea and United will look towards their clash in April as a significant date. 

Arsenal eased into fourth at the weekend and have a friendly run-in to the end of the season

Arsenal eased into fourth at the weekend and have a friendly run-in to the end of the season

Arsenal eased into fourth at the weekend and have a friendly run-in to the end of the season

Manchester United have taken seven points from their last four under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United have taken seven points from their last four under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United have taken seven points from their last four under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Only United survive in the FA Cup and, though Arsenal are 3-1 down after the first leg of their Europa League tie with Rennes, all four remain in European competition, which offers an alternative ticket into the Champions League. 

Twists are guaranteed but the value of being among the elite is greater than ever. Real Madrid banked around £80million for winning the Champions League last season, nearly four times what Atletico Madrid earned for lifting the Europa League.

All this, without accounting for the natural impact on summer recruitment, keeping players and managers and on the global status and marketability. Wenger’s observations from 2012 have never rung more true.



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Liverpool ace Virgil van Dijk TROLLED – ‘Arsenal reject just ended best defender in world'

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Holland lost 3-2 to Germany in Euro 2020 qualifying with Nico Schulz netting a 90th minute winner.

But before that Bayern Munich winger Gnabry scored in the first half.

The 23-year-old cut in from the left hand side, evaded Van Dijk and curled home for Germany.

And fans were quick to criticise the Liverpool ace on Twitter.

One said: “Let me caption this better for you ”Former Arsenal reject Serge Gnabry just ended best defender in the world” Van Dijk.”

Another added: “So Arsenal had Gnabry and sold him. Man had Van Dijk on strings today.”

A third explained: “Serge Gnabry made Van Dijk look silly last night and being an Arsenal fan that’s upset me.”

Van Dijk has been imperious for Liverpool this season, helping them to a Premier League title challenge and the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

He has made 38 appearances across the two competitions and impressed in the heart of the defence.

Van Dijk also has four goals and three assists for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

And the Liverpool ace had more luck against Gnabry in the Champions League as the Reds knocked out Bayern Munich.

Klopp’s side return to action after the international break against Tottenham on Sunday at Anfield in the Premier League (4.30pm).

Liverpool are currently two points clear of Manchester City but have played one more game.

Van Dijk believes winning the Premier League this season would be ‘something special’.

“Would I sooner win the Premier League or Champions League? I can’t choose,” he told the Premier League Show.

“But the Premier League would be something special.

“This year, because the race is so tight it says a lot about the quality of our team if we do it.

“If not, then we should keep our heads high and try again, but that’s something we’re not focusing on right now.”

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Photos: Liverpool’s James Milner on holiday in Dubai

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Liverpool vice-captain James Milner has enjoyed a week on holiday in Dubai during the international break. With his England career behind him, Milner…

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Arsenal set to table an offer for son of World Cup winner

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Arsenal is set to table an offer for Guingamp youngster Marcus Thuram at the end of the season, according to Le 10 Sport.

Thuram is the son of former French World up winner Lilian Thuram and has been a shining light in a very mediocre Guingamp side.

Unlike his father, who was a defender, Thuram is a forward, albeit more of a wide player than an out and out striker.

The 21-year-old was pivotal in knocking out Paris St Germain at the quarter-final stage of the Coupe de la Ligue, scoring the winner in extra time from the penalty spot and again scored in the semi-final against Monaco helping his side progress to next weeks final.

We are not the only side interested in Thuram, German giants Dortmund are also reported to be interested in the youngster and are said to be very keen.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery is reported to be the person that brought Thuram’s name up as a potential signing having had experience of watching him in France when he was in charge of PSG.

No fee has been mentioned but Guingamp are apparently prepared to sell as long as the price is right.

You have to think that this is a very realistic signing, if Emery himself has identified the forward as a potential signing then it must be serious and based on what we know, he would be a great prospect and fantastic acquisition.

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