After the Premier League suspended all fixtures until April 4th, there’s talk about what might happen if the season is cancelled.
For now, the plan is to reassess the situation next month. It doesn’t look particularly likely the danger will have completely passed by early April though, with predictions that the coronavirus peak could be as late as May or June.
At that point, you’re looking at cancelling the season. For a start, many players have contracts until June 30th. If the league goes on any longer than that, those players no longer have deals to play for their current clubs.
For example, Cedric Soares, Pablo Mari and Dani Ceballos have loans running out in June.
Arsenal will probably sign Mari permanently, but they have no competitive way of judging whether to sign Soares. Plus, Ceballos is likely to return to Madrid. So they could lose at least two players before the season is up.
Given the unfair disadvantage that will give some clubs, the Premier League may have no choice but to call the season off. At that stage, they have three main ways they could award next season’s Champions League places:
Based on current standings
This isn’t particularly fair, considering not all teams have even played the same number of matches, but it’s possible. It would leave Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City and Chelsea in the top four.
However, if Manchester City’s ban stands, Manchester United (fifth) would take their place. Arsenal wouldn’t even get into the Europa League, but could justifiably argue they could have won their game in hand and reached sixth (an EL spot).
Based on last season’s standings
If this season is cancelled and essentially voided, perhaps the Premier League will just use the last complete season to decide the Champions League spots. In that case, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs would make it in again.
But, as before, if City’s ban stands, the next team in the table would take the spot. In this case, that’s Arsenal.
Based on the club coefficient
It’s possible UEFA may issue a Europe-wide ruling on qualification, rather than leaving it to the individual leagues to come to a consensus. The most obvious way for them to do so is to pick the teams with the highest club coefficient from each relevant association.
In England, that’s a top-four of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. Tottenham Hotspur are fifth in the list as the potential City replacement. This system obviously suits Arsenal best, given they get in regardless of City’s ban.
Unfortunately, the decision won’t be made on what suits Arsenal. We can only keep our fingers crossed.