Arsenal face a potential Champions League group of death if the final few weeks of the season do not go as they hope. Mikel Arteta will be sweating on results from across Europe over the next month or so.
Arsenal have qualified for Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 2016. Despite losing to title rivals Manchester City on Wednesday, Brighton’s defeat at Nottingham Forest meant they can no longer leapfrog the Gunners.
But Arsenal’s lack of appearances in the Champions League, as well as failure to go far in the Europa League, could cost them. UEFA decide the seedings for the Champions League draw by the UEFA club coefficients list as well as success from the previous season.
The 32 teams who enter the group stages will be split into four pots of eight. Pot one consists of the reigning Champions League and Europa League winners, as well as the champions from the top six leagues in Europe.
The other 24 teams will be seeded depending on where they sit at that point in the coefficient list. It is designed to produce groups as equal as possible.
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Arsenal currently occupy 23rd spot. That means, if the top 22 teams all qualify for the Champions League, Arsenal would be in pot three.
That won’t be the case, however, and Arsenal will be hoping they can squeeze into pot two. For that to happen, at least seven teams from the top 22 in the coefficient list must not qualify for the Champions League next season.
Chelsea are definitely one team who won’t make it. Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany also look set to miss out, while Liverpool and Tottenham are rank outsiders in England.
So there are four teams higher than Arsenal in the coefficient rankings but likely won’t be in the Champions League next season. In theory, that would move Arsenal up to 19th in the rankings – now they must find at least three more.
Roma and Inter Milan are above Arsenal in the rankings but their qualification is far from confirmed. Roma are currently just outside the top four in Italy but are also in the semi-final of the Europa League, therefore giving Jose Mourinho two opportunities to qualify.
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Inter are just below Roma in sixth but are in the Champions League semi-final, so could also qualify through that route. Arsenal ideally would want Roma and Inter to finish outside the Serie A top four and also not win either of the European trophies they are in.
RB Leipzig are also above Arsenal in the coefficient standings but sit fifth in Germany, one place outside the Bundesliga top four. Villarreal are also fifth in Spain, five points off Real Sociedad in fourth. Arsenal will hope that stays the same.
Another spanner in the works for Arsenal is the composition of pot one. The majority of the sides set to be in pot one are already above the Gunners in the coefficient list.
But there are also a few possibilities where that won’t be the case. Bayer Leverkusen are 24th in the list but are in the Europa League semi-finals. Winning that competition would automatically lift them into pot one and theoretically move Arsenal down one further spot.
In the Netherlands, Feyenoord look set to win the Eredivisie. That isn’t good news for Arsenal as the Dutch side are way down in 34th, so would again go straight to pot one.
Sevilla are mid-table in Spain, so won’t finish in the top four. However, the Europa League specialists are in the semi-final again and could therefore go straight into pot one if they win the competition for a seventh time.
Arsenal at the moment would likely prefer to see Juventus win the Europa League. Juve are above Arsenal in the rankings and are already well-placed to finish in the Serie A top four after their points deduction was reinstated.
The intricacies are changing all the time and the picture will be clearer in a few weeks’ time. But it could have been so different for Arsenal.
If they win the league this season, they would go into pot one. But that now looks unlikely following their midweek drubbing by City.
In truth, pot three looks most likely for Arsenal, which could lead to a group of death. They could potentially face two of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain to make them outsiders to qualify.
Some Arsenal fans will be happy to see the big teams return to the Emirates. But Arteta will be hoping the next few weeks go favourably for his side to give them the best chance of an easier draw on paper.
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