Arsenal’s Champions League dream and key Premier League games to win

Arsenal have got their bid to land their first top-four finish in the Premier League since 2015/16 back on track with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Aston Villa last time out.

Bukayo Saka’s first-half winner at Villa Park helped the Gunners bounce back from a 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool and maintain a three-point lead on fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Mikel Arteta’s men are locked in a fierce battle for a fourth-place finish with Spurs and Manchester United, whom they will take on late in April in a top-four six-pointer.

With a game in hand on both rivals, the current Arsenal news is positive at this time of the season after several years. The Londoners are in firm control of their top-four pursuit, although they have a fearsome schedule waiting in the wings across the final nine rounds.

April Fixtures

Arsenal’s first Premier League match in April pits them against mid-table Crystal Palace, who held table-topping Manchester City to a goalless home draw on the eve of March’s international break.

The Gunners’ must-win trip to Selhurst Park for an all-London match-up with Patrick Vieira’s side will serve as a warm-up fixture for another must-win home encounter against out-of-sorts Brighton & Hove Albion.

If they are to stay on course to pip Spurs and Man United to a coveted fourth place, Arteta’s side will have to amass maximum points against sub-par opponents.

Indeed, despite Southampton’s upturn in form this calendar year, Arsenal’s visit to St Mary’s Stadium in mid-April will be another game they cannot afford not to win.

The meeting with the Saints could have a significant bearing on the Gunners’ seasonal goals, especially as they will face Chelsea in a mouth-watering showdown only four days later.

Despite losing 2-0 in the reverse fixture at the Emirates, Arsenal will have plenty to look forward to at Stamford Bridge, where they are unbeaten in their last two Premier League outings (W1, D1).

But Arsenal’s home clash against Man United in their final contest in April could be a season-defining match for Arteta’s team, and should be the highlight football match on TV to watch that weekend.

Only four points currently separate the two sides, and although plenty could change between now and then, this could be the ‘make or break’ fixture.

Arsenal may have suffered a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season, but they have held the Red Devils goalless in their last three top-flight H2Hs at the Emirates, winning twice in that period.

May Fixtures

The Gunners’ cross-town trip to West Ham United will serve to get their May action underway, putting Arteta’s men in front of another formidable challenge.

Even though the Hammers have run out of steam of late, they are still one of the fiercest home teams in the Premier League, and avoiding defeat at the London Stadium would be a massive coup for Arsenal.

Picking up the points at home will be as crucial as ever. So Leeds United’s visit to the nation’s capital in early May will be another must-win challenge for the Londoners.

A potential victory over Jesse Marsch’s charges would set Arsenal up nicely for the final two matchdays of the season.

Newcastle United’s renaissance under Eddie Howe has turned them into legitimate contenders for a top-half finish, something they could have only dreamt about in the first half of the season.

Having grown from relegation candidates into one of the most in-form Premier League sides, the Magpies will be keen to end a frustrating streak of six consecutive top-flight H2H defeats without scoring.

Yet, the Gunners can ill-afford to drop the points at St James’ Park on the penultimate matchday.

Given Everton’s ongoing relegation struggle, Goodison Park could prove a hostile environment on the final weekend, especially if the Toffees fail to move away from the drop zone.

Frank Lampard’s men are fighting tooth and nail to avoid what would be an epic upset, which makes them tough to play against.

But if Arsenal want to consolidate their top-four credentials, those are the kind of matches they have to thrive in.