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Arsenal great Paul Merson has declared the his former side’s rivals Tottenham Hotspur favourites in the battle for the fourth Champions League spot.

The Gunners lost convincingly away at Crystal Palace on Monday night with Merson declaring the loss a ‘rough, rough night’ for Arsenal.

Having beaten Newcastle United at home on Sunday, Spurs would have been watching attentively at what Arsenal did at Selhurst Park the next night.

Merson believes Monday’s performance showed a weaker side to Arsenal and because of that he now believes Spurs are favourites for the final top-four place.

He wrote in his Sky Sports column:

There are ways of getting beat and Monday night at Palace wasn’t a good way of getting beat. It was worrying.

I expected one of those performances from Tottenham before the end of the season, I didn’t expect it from Arsenal.

Spurs are the favourites for top four now. When Harry Kane’s playing like he is, I don’t think too many teams are going to beat them.

However, Merson added that any injury to Kane would immediately halt their push for the top four.

He wrote:

But you take Kane out of the team, top four ain’t happening for Spurs. It’s as simple as that.’

When he doesn’t turn up at Burnley away, they get beaten. Tottenham are a one-man team and that’s not being disrespectful.

You could have a Ferrari, but without an engine in the car it ain’t working. He’s the all-round package, and that’s why he’s the best centre-forward in the world, and I’ve said it for a long, long time.

Arsenal still have to travel to Spurs, having seen the game pencilled in for January postponed owing to a number of Covid cases in the squad.

Merson believes the fixture negated any positives Arsenal could draw from still having a game in hand over their local rivals.

He wrote:

Now all of a sudden, Arsenal don’t really have a game in hand – because Tottenham have got them at home anyway.

It doesn’t matter what they do with their game in hand, because Tottenham will have to beat them and can overtake them.

Despite drawing to Leicester on Saturday evening to leave themselves further adrift of the Champions League chase, Merson believes Manchester United are not yet completely out of the hunt.

He wrote:

I don’t think Manchester United are totally out of the top-four race.

The Arsenal result at Palace gives them a chance though. Arsenal and Tottenham have got to play each other, Man Utd have got to play Arsenal, and if results go their way then they are in it.

I don’t watch them and think “wow”, which I do with Tottenham at the moment. I watch United and I don’t see it at all. But they’re still in it.

Meanwhile, to compound Arsenal’s misery after being roundly beaten at Crystal Palace, it was confirmed that left-back Kieran Tierney would miss the remainder of the campaign having felt discomfort in his knee after returning from international duty.

Merson wrote that Tierney was one of the players Arsenal could not afford to lose and his absence will be felt for the rest of the season, as evidenced on Monday night.

He said:

Kieran Tierney is going to be a big miss for Arsenal, after his knee injury before the Palace game. He’s one of the players you can’t afford to take out of this Arsenal team.


By Debbie

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