Arsenal’s victory over Southampton on Wednesday night not only kept their top four hopes alive, but opened the door to the possibility of a Premier League play-off for the final Champions League-qualifying position with Liverpool.
That Arsenal win, combined with Liverpool’s failure to beat Saints last weekend has handled the Gunners a glimmer of hope about Champions League football next season.
Arsenal can still qualify outright if they win their remaining three games and Liverpool fail to win both of their remaining two matches, but there is now also the possibility of a 39th Premier League game between the two.
Premier League rules state:
“If at the end of the season either the league champions or the clubs to be relegated or the question of qualification for other competitions cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, timing and venue of which shall be determined by the board.”
So what needs to happen in order to for the first ever Premier League top-four play-off to take place?
Currently, Liverpool have 70 points from 36 games, giving them a maximum of 76 points from 38 matches. Arsenal have 66 points from 35 games, giving them a maximum of 75 points from 38 matches.
So Arsenal need to hope that Liverpool slip up, either at West Ham or against Middlesbrough at home on the final day of the season, while beating Stoke, Sunderland and Everton in the process. But they can also end up locked together if the following results occur:
- Stoke City 1-1 Arsenal
- Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland
- Arsenal 2-1 Everton
- West Ham 1-0 Liverpool
- Liverpool 3-1 Middlesbrough
That would leave both sides level 73 points, with a goal difference of 30 and a goals scored tally of 74, leading to a play-off at a neutral venue before the end of the season and an extra nerve-wracking day out for both sets of fans.