Could Man Utd and Arsenal Really Finish Outside The Top Six?

Could Man Utd and Arsenal Really Finish Outside The Top Six?

The protest banners are coming back at Manchester United and Arsenal. The fans are turning on the owners as the new season comes into view.

And in the summer transfer market, neither club has yet delivered the huge marquee signing which might ease the unrest among the rebellious supporters.

Against such a backdrop, it’s quite feasible to wonder if either club – or both – is about to lose their position among the Premier League’s elite Big Six; or at least in its top six places.

And to wonder whether the growing financial might now percolating all the way down in the most compelling league competition on earth might catapult a new, coming force like Wolves, Everton, Leicester City or West Ham above them.

Top 6 Betting

Top Six Finish?OddsBookmakerImplied Probability
Everton9/2William Hill 18.2%
West Ham15/2Paddy Power11.8%

Arsenal finished fifth in the Premier League last season. They had 70 points – 28 less than champions Manchester City, 27 less than second-placed Liverpool and crucially, one less than their greatest rivals Tottenham, who claimed the fourth Champions League qualification place.

United finished sixth with 66 points – a full 32 less than their swaggeringly noisy neighbours at the Etihad.

They are statistics which make it strikingly plain how great was the divide between the fallen Old Guard at Old Trafford and the Emirates and the new dominant pairing of Pep Guardiola’s City and the Champions League winners Liverpool.

Even third-placed Chelsea finished 25 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Now, it seems plain that the followers of both United and the Gunners are not expecting much more than another campaign in which they are the also-rans around the leading positions.

With the four big clubs above them – City, Liverpool , Chelsea and Spurs – enjoying summers of optimism – and the four who finished below them last season – Wolves, Everton, Leicester and the Hammers – flexing their muscles already, Arsenal and United are the Premier League’s In-Betweeners; out-of-touch looking upwards and under threat from below.

With Manchester City the 4/6 favourites to retain the title with the best bookmakers, Liverpool are much-fancied by the oddsmakers to finish second again, with Tottenham third.

Most still have faith that the top six will remain unchanged despite the challenge from outside the elite. United are 1/6 to finish in the leading sextet with Bet365 and even shorter (1/8) with William Hill.

Chelsea to finish in the top six is available at 1/5 (Bet365), 1/6 (Ladbrokes) and 1/10 (William Hill), while Arsenal are 1/5 to finish in the top six with Paddy Power.

Top Six Odds For 2019-20

The challenge from beneath is real, though. Wolves and Everton are 7/2 to make the top six with Bet365. Leicester are 4/1 with Betway and William Hill.

West Ham, meanwhile, fluctuate between 6/1 with Betfair to 14/1 with BetVictor.

Arsenal have already been usurped by Spurs in recent seasons. Now they look vulnerable to further assaults.

That is what has prompted the highly-publicised written statement of unrest from a unified co-operative of varied Gunners’ fans groups.

They want owner Stan Kroenke to invest more heavily in new players and to re-energise what they see as a drifting club. They didn’t drive out Arsene Wenger for this. But, in truth, they shouldn’t hold out much hope.

It’s highly unlikely than an American billionaire who operates a string of “franchises” across various sports will take lessons in how to run his soccer outfit from the stands.

The idea of signing Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace, for example, seems nothing but a pipe dream with the price tag set at £80 million. And even the pursuit of Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney is proving a little rich for Arsenal’s finances, with a £25 million offer rejected.

There is also unrest in the camp, with club captain Laurent Koscielny having refused to go on the pre-season tour to the USA while he attempts to force a transfer to his native France.

The one small glimmer of optimism has been provided by the goalscoring debut of the £6 million Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli – who hit the net in Monday’s 3-0 defeat of Colorado Rapids (also owned by Kroenke) in Denver. But that will hardly soothe the fans wider concerns.

United No Better Off

Meanwhile, at United, the green and-yellow flags of the Glazer Out movement began to re-appear during the dismal run-in to last season – following the initial surge in form created by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s take-over as manager.

True enough, they have been more active than Arsenal in the market.

The promising teenaged winger Daniel James has arrived from Swansea and made a good impression in pre-season in Australia.

The defender Aaron Wan-Bisakka has arrived from Crystal Palace for £50 million. Harry Maguire could be on his way from Leicester for £80 million. Despite the price tags, though, these are necessary acts of re-building rather than assaults on the barricades.

The agreement of a new contract with striker Marcus Rashford has also signalled Solskjaer’s determination to restore the attacking identity of the team.

But at the same time, the continued speculation surrounding the future of Paul Pogba has signified to many supporters that the club is still deeply in transition rather than ready to punch its weight properly next season.

Who Can Break Up The Top Six?

Among the four finishers below sixth-placed United last season, however, the summer has been one of optimism.

Wolves, who were seventh, outstripped all expectation after promotion the season before. The permanent signing of Mexican forward Raul Jiminez for £34 million after a 12-month loan from Benfica is a signal of further intent from the highly-rated manager, Nuno Espirito Santo.

Eighth-placed Everton have similarly splashed £32 million to make Andre Gomes’s presence permanent and they have also captured the versatile Fabian Delph from Manchester City.

Leicester were ninth and their successful second-half of the season following Brendan Rodgers’ appointment as coach bodes well – as does the £30 million signing of striker Ayoze Perez from Newcastle and the permanent capture of Youri Tielemans from Monaco.

Maguire may be on his way but a central defensive replacement is already lined up in the form of Brighton’s Lewis Dunk.

Meanwhile, West Ham have been determined to back coach Manuel Pellegrini’s desire to play attacking, creative football.

The impressive Spanish midfielder Pablo Fornals has already been signed from Villareal for £25 and French striker Sebastian Haller could be on his way from Eintracht Frankfurt.

Among the other rival Big Six clubs, too, the outlook seems far more promising than it is currently for Arsenal and United.

Chelsea will expect a massive lift from the appointment of Frank Lampard as manager. Tottenham will believe they can push on further domestically and in Europe after reaching the Champions League final.

By contrast, Arsenal’s progress to a European final last season seemed to sum up their malaise. They lost so heavily and feebly to Chelsea in the Europa League showpiece in Baku that the club appeared to be stuck in some kind of limbo.

The task for Arsenal and United this season is to escape from this trap. But they will be fighting on two fronts in the Premier League table – above and below.