After seeing Chelsea progress to the Champions League final on Wednesday night, Arsenal had the chance to make their own European final on Thursday evening and leave West Ham United fans dreading a nightmare scenario.
Had Arsenal gone onto win the Europa League and Chelsea the Champions League West Ham could have found themselves in a position where fourth place may not have been enough for the ‘big one’ as David Moyes calls it.
The good news for the Hammers is that after Arsenal’s dismal 2-1 aggregate defeat to former manager Unai Emery’s team a top-four finish now guarantees Champions League football next season.
Even if West Ham finish fourth ahead of the Blues and they go on to win their second Champions League title, the Hammers will still get a Champions League spot next season.
An alteration to the qualification rules means that a maximum of five clubs from one country can enter the Champions League if the winners of the previous year’s competition or the Europa League winners finish outside the league qualification placings.
West Ham are currently in fifth place three points behind Chelsea in fourth and five off Leicester in fifth. Breaking into the top four is still a tough ask for Moyes and his team but it is one they are aiming for.
Following the 2-1 win against Burnley on Monday evening Moyes said: “We are going to try and keep up with the teams at the top.
“Whether we can make the top four I am not sure but I would really like to try and get ourselves in a position where we could possibly make Europe and we are in there fighting with four games to go.”
Following Manchester City’s Carabao Cup victory the one place in UEFA’s new Europa Conference League (UECL) competition that competition came with, will go to either to the sixth or more likely the seventh-placed Premier League team.
As long as the FA Cup and League Cup winners finish in the top five of the league, the UECL place will go to the team that finishes seventh.
In this scenario, fifth and sixth got into the Europa League group stages in a new streamlined version of the tournament that will feature just 32 teams compared to 48 this season, and the prize for winning your group is a spot in the last-16 rather than the round of 32 as in previous years.
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The incentive to win the group stage is clear to see and would result in two fewer matches to progress in the tournament and therefore be less of a strain on a club with a small squad such as West ham.
For now, Moyes’ concentration is solely on maintaining West Ham’s form and keeping the pressure on Leicester and Chelsea as he aims for a spot in the Champions League.
There are four games remaining for the Hammers, first up is Everton at home on Sunday at 4.30pm followed by trips to Brighton and West Brom and then a home match in front of up to 10,000 fans agaisnt Southampton.